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The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch S02E06 “Halloween”

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In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will have a bruised tail bone due to laziness. 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.
  17. Cheap laughs and desperate grabs at plot plausibility are made through Xenophobia.
  18. Oz is the Anti-Xander

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. 

Previously, on the Big Damn Buffy Rewatch, I said that Angel was like Chedward and y’all flipped directly out. So I’m leaving #9 as is. But I’m not going to downgrade Angel from dick status, because in this series, he really is a dick. If this was the Big Damn Angel Rewatch, #9 would be “Angel is a well-rounded and interesting character,” but this isn’t Angel so that’s not how it’s happening.

Since Halloween was coming up, and this is the Halloween episode of Buffy, I thought I’d sneak another recap in out of schedule.

This classic episode of Buffy opens with a fight in Pop’s Pumpkin Patch. Buffy will get into another pumpkin-patch related vamp fight in season 5, and it’s a long time until then, so enjoy Buffy throwing various fall vegetables at this vampire while you can. Someone is filming this fight, as well, and he forgot to charge the battery on his handycam.


This is a fight sequence that makes you really appreciate how much effort went into seamlessly integrating stunt artist footage with Sarah Michelle Gellar’s acting. If you haven’t watched it in a while, I encourage you to Netflix that shit immediately. Buffy stakes the vamp, and cameraman vamp fades away so as not to get the same.

After the opening credits, we see Angel at the Bronze, in normal human clothing and not the dark and brooding fall essentials from the Heathcliff Collection. Cordelia sidles up to the table and tells Angel that she’s waiting for Devon, but he’s a flaky musician type. Note that Devon is the singer of Dingos Ate My Baby, the band that Oz is also in. She sits down with Angel just as Buffy walks through the door. She sees Angel genuinely laughing at something Cordelia is saying– wait.

Wait a second.

Cordelia is telling Angel all about how her Barbie car was nicer than Devon’s car, and he’s apparently really into it? This doesn’t jibe with any characterization of Angel we have seen or will seen. I choose to believe he’s just laughing out of politeness and nervousness about meeting up with Buffy, because season two of Angel Angel would be like, “I don’t know or care what that is.”

Buffy turns to leave– and wait again.

Wait a second.

I really hate how whenever Buffy sees a guy she likes talking to another girl, she just fucking leaves. Like, oh, I guess I’m not wanted here, I’m going to go cry about how I’ll be forever alone. I get the idea of not wanting be in a competitive teen girl fight over a dude, or swoop in and squash someone’s vibe, but Buffy doesn’t even bother to see what the situation is. She doesn’t even say hi. It bugs me that Buffy is supposed to be a Strong Female Character ™ and she just gives up when it comes to any conflict that doesn’t involve physical violence. It just adds to that whole, Strong Female Character ™ trope wherein being strong physically = being weak in literally every other area of thought, word, and deed.

Anyway, Angel sees Buffy leaving, then catches up with her. He picks a piece of straw out of her hair that got left behind in the pumpkin fight, and Cordelia comes over and says:

Cordelia: “Buffy. Love the hair. It just screams ‘street urchin.'”

This is what I mean. Buffy knows that Cordelia is shallow, vain and nasty at this stage of the game. Buffy is smart enough to solve all these supernatural crimes, but she’s not smart enough to realize that Cordelia is going to be openly hostile to her, thus giving Buffy the high ground in front of Angel?

Then, because Cordelia took a shot at her appearance, Buffy straight up cancels her date with Angel. The thing that she’s wanted this whole time, a step toward a normal relationship, and she rejects it because her hair doesn’t look good?

joss-whedon-strong-female-characters (1)

In fairness to Joss, though, this episode wasn’t written by him. It was written by Carl Ellsworth.

This is what Buffy says to Angel right before she abandons their date:

Buffy: “But who am I kidding? Dates are things normal girls have. Girls who have time to think about nail polish and facials. You know what I think about? Ambush tactics. Beheading. Not exactly the stuff dreams are made of.”

Then she just leaves, and Cordelia is left with an opening to swoop in. Which she does.

Okay, let’s take a look at what Buffy is really saying there. “Normal” girls think about being pretty, while thinking about violence is something girls who are not “normal” do. We have the script blatantly stating that all girls are one way, or should be one way. #6. And I realize some of you are thinking to yourselves, “But that’s how it really is for teenage girls, it really does feel like that when you’re a teen.” I feel you. But the show backs up this assertion of “If you want a boyfriend, you have to act appropriately feminine” through all seven seasons. Buffy never has a successful romantic relationship, specifically because of her Slayer duties. Meanwhile, Cordelia racks up the boyfriends, goes on to a spin-off show, finally becomes a well-rounded and realistic character, and then every shred of the character is brutally destroyed when she finds happiness. The show constantly reinforces the notion that if you’re a Strong Female Character ™, you don’t deserve love, because being a SFC is enough.

At school the next day, Principal Snyder is forcing kids to “volunteer” for this Halloween safety program wherein high school students accompany younger kids trick-or-treating. To keep them safe. Because Sunnydale is all about the safety suddenly? Jeez, if you wanna be safe, you should definitely move, people. Buffy says she’d rather stick to fighting vampires than wrangling children (ain’t that the truth?), but Snyder has other ideas.

Here we pause to examine why, exactly, would Snyder keep making the Scoobies do stuff that requires responsibility when he thinks they’re all fuck ups?

This whole volunteering thing really puts a damper on Buffy’s plans:

Buffy: “Great. I was gonna stay in and veg. The one night a year things are supposed to be quiet for me.”

Xander: “Halloween, quiet? I figured it would be a big old vamp scare-a-palooza.”

Buffy: “Not according to Giles. He swears that tomorrow night is like, dead for the undead. They stay in.”

This is one of my favorite things about this show. They will often take a trope of the horror genre and turn it right on its head.  Halloween is supposed to be monster time in a big way. Think of all the horror movies where some shit goes down on Halloween. The Crow. Trick or Trees. Jeepers Creepers. House of 1,000 Corpses. Pet Sematary. Jeez, there’s even a whole horror franchise called Halloween and it has like a gabillion movies in it. We know that Halloween is monster time, but in the Buffyverse, it’s more like Columbus Day, if the post office were full of vampires.

Xander goes to get a pop from the vending machine, where he is confronted by the introduction of Larry. Larry is a minor recurring character on the show who easily gets one of the most interesting and touchingly realistic character arcs, even if it’s done for comedic relief. More on that later. Right now, I need to make you aware of this fact:




Yup. Larry isn’t Ernie anymore. He’s “Ice.”

Larry wants to know if Buffy is Xander’s girlfriend, and if not, would she go out with him. And of course, Xander tells him no, Buffy isn’t his girlfriend, but he plans that she will be one day (#5). Larry has heard that Buffy is DTF, because apparently that’s a rumor going around.  Dude, what’s up with this guy being such a jerk on Halloween?

Now, for a minute here, I’m like good job, Xander! because he says this:

Xander: “Look, that’s my friend you’re talking about.”

So you think, wow, he’s really going to stick up for Buffy. Then he grabs Larry’s shirt and says he’s going to do something “manly,” but Larry is stronger and is about to punch out Xander’s lights. Buffy intervenes, saving Xander from a pummeling, and this is the thanks she gets:

Xander: “Oh, I’ll forget about it. Maybe fifteen, twenty years, when my rep for being a sissy-man finally fades.”

#5, #6, and holy homophobia, Batman! Buffy saved Xander from a major ass-kicking, but all he cares about is the fact that people might think he’s gay. Seriously? Because a girl defended you, Xander? He’s completely ungrateful. See, it’s okay for him to take a punch for Buffy’s “honor,” but not for Buffy to help him out. Even grosser, when Larry asks Xander if Buffy is his girlfriend, he says he feels their friendship could become something more, so obviously Xander doesn’t look on Buffy as a friend, but as a goal to obtain. If they were really friends, they would be equals, and it would be no big deal if Buffy helped him out in a fight. Because that’s what friends do. Friends help friends in fights.

I think Willow sums up the entire situation the best:

Willow: “Poor Xander. Boys are so fragile.”

Willow asks Buffy how her date with Angel went, and it went… a lot differently in the telling than what the viewer saw. Buffy says that she showed up looking horrible, and Angel was in a great mood because Cordelia was there with him. Which isn’t what happened at all. Buffy showed up with straw in her hair from the pumpkin patch, yes. But he wanted Buffy to stay. He tried to get her to stay. The moment she showed up, he ditched Cordelia. It was Buffy who flaked, not him. Willow tells Buffy that Cordelia isn’t Angel’s type, and Buffy points out that they don’t exactly know what his type is. Okay, point taken, Buffy, but last night he showed a clear interest in you and you blew him off because of your own insecurities.

Willow thinks it just too darn bad they can’t sneak a look at the private Watcher diaries Giles keeps locked up in his office for super secret Watcher reasons, because they could read up on what Angel is like. And obviously, they’re good girls and they’re not going to break in to Giles’s office and sneak a peak at his personal files, because that would be wrong and hey look, there they are at the library door:


Buffy sneaks in and heads straight for Giles’s office, but he spots her and tells her that since she’s going to have some free time on Halloween, he should probably monopolize the hell out of it. This results in Buffy cracking on him for being old and having no life, and Giles insists he has lots of hobbies, but he can’t think of any besides cross-referencing. Buffy motions Willow into the library in the hopes that she can sneak into Giles’s office and steal the diary while Buffy distracts him. When Buffy tries to question him about the reason Halloween is a vampire night off, he realizes that, hey, Buffy doesn’t really give a shit about Slayer stuff at any other time, so she’s up to something. This leads Buffy to a more desperate distraction tactic, and she tells Giles that Ms. Calendar said he’s hot. This is super effective, Willow grabs the diary, and Buffy tells Giles he should ask Jenny out before bolting after Willow.

In the bathroom, Willow and Buffy see a sketch of a woman from Angel’s human times in the Watcher diary.

Willow: “Man, look at her. Who is she?”

Buffy: “It doesn’t say, but the entry’s dated 1775.”

Uh… guys?

Maybe her name is Sarah. Just a hunch.
Maybe her name is Sarah. Just a hunch.

Anyway, Buffy and Willow talk about how this girl was probably the type that Angel was into:

Buffy: “Must have been wonderful to put on some fantabulous gown, and go to a ball like a princess. And have horses and servants, and yet more gowns.”

Willow: “Yeah. Still, I think I prefer being able to vote. Or I will, when I can.”

Good girl, Willow.

Cordelia comes in and gloats about spending the evening at the Bronze with Angel. She asks Buffy what he’s like, and why they don’t see him around more often, and after some hints that Cordelia doesn’t pick up on, Buffy straight up tells her that Angel is a vampire. Cordelia doesn’t believe her, though, and thinks Buffy is just trying to scare her off:

Cordelia: “Look, Buffy, you may be hot stuff when it comes to demonology or whatever, but when it comes to dating, I’m the Slayer.”

Let’s get married, Cordy.

Later, at a costume shop, Willow picks out a ghost costume and shows it to Buffy for her approval. Buffy nixes it, citing the time honored tradition of girls being able to dress sexy on Halloween without repercussion or judgment. HA! Since fucking when? Yeah, you can dress sexy, aka, “slutty,” and probably get away with going out of the house that way against parent objections, but absolutely your peers are judging the fuck out of you and saying shit behind your back. Buffy also tells Willow that she’ll never get noticed unless she dresses sexy. #6, Buffy.

Xander decides that he’s going to go as a super manly army guy, and Buffy promises that she’ll never stop him from getting beat up again. Which is really no more than he deserves. Then Buffy sees an elaborate princess gown, and suddenly…


This is Ethan Rayne, Giles’s ex-boyfriend old nemesis, but the Scoobies don’t know that yet. He makes a big deal about how great Buffy is going to look in the costume, even offering to give it to her when she says she can’t pay. And since Buffy is big into the “poor me, I’m not a princess” theme this episode… she falls for it hard.

Spike is back– yay! Spike!– and he’s in his abandoned factory lair, watching the video his minion took of Buffy fighting. Spike has a real appreciation for the way the Slayer fights, which is kind of refreshing. So many vamps on this show are like, “I’m gonna kill the Slayer,” but Spike puts real effort into the job. That’s why we like Spike.

While Spike is watching the tape, Drusilla meanders in and tells him of a vision she’s had. Someone new has come to Sunnydale, and this is going to be a game changer.

Cut to the costume shop, where the guy we don’t yet know is Ethan Rayne is worshipping Chaos. LIke you do. Though it seems to fly in the face of discord to do a spooky ritual on Halloween, when everyone should be expecting that kind of thing. He should just do it on a random Saturday.

At Buffy’s house, Buffy and Willow are putting on their costumes. Buffy has dressed like the girl from the book, complete with towering black hair, and Willow is going as a mid-90’s Aerosmith video.


Buffy is psyched to be dressed up all historical style to meet Angel after the “volunteer” trick-or-treating program. Willow still just wants to go as a ghost, because she’s uncomfortable with the way she’s dressed, but Buffy explains to her that Halloween is one night of the year that they can be different than who they really are. Buffy’s excitement at this prospect, and Willow’s discomfort with it, gives us great insight into their characterization. Buffy longs to be someone else, because she isn’t happy with who she really is. Willow, on the other hand, doesn’t want to be anyone else. She likes herself. Buffy is certain, with the single-minded surety of a teenage girl, that her friend needs to break out of her shell; what Buffy doesn’t realize (and can’t realize, until like, season seven) is that Willow isn’t the one who needs her self-esteem fixed. If Willow faces the rejection of her peers, she does so with an almost cheerful inevitability, while Buffy collapses. Willow has a sense of self, and Buffy seeks it from others.

Xander meets Buffy and Willow at the house, but when Willow comes downstairs, she’s wearing her ghost costume.  Willow is staying true to herself. Good job, Willow.

At Sunnydale High, ponytail dad isn’t an embarrassment to his child yet:

But one day, he will be.
But one day, he will be.

Snyder leads a group of kids over to Buffy and warns her to return them in one piece. Look, Snyder, I know Buffy is kind of a delinquent, but I’m pretty sure she’s not going to dismember the children.  Larry, who is dressed as a pirate, teases Xander about Buffy being his bodyguard, and Cordelia, in a skin-tight leopard print suit and a cat ear headband, confronts Oz in the hallway:

Oz: “Hey, Cordelia. Jeez, you’re like a great big cat.”

Cordy: “That’s my costume. Are you guys playing tonight?”

Oz: “Yeah, at the Shelter Club.”

Cordy: “Is Mr. I’m-the-lead-singer-I’m-so-great-I-don’t-have-to-show-up-for-my-date-or-even-call going to be there?”

Oz: “Yeah, you know, he’s just going by Devon now.”

If you haven’t watched this one in a while, do, and pay particular attention to the brilliance of Charisma Carpenter’s delivery on “That’s my costume.”

So, Cordelia got stood up, and she wants Oz to tell Devon how much she doesn’t care. And it’s like, so much, guys. Cordy doesn’t care so much that Oz shouldn’t even tell Devon her message about how much she doesn’t care, then she stalks away and– okay, apparently this guy is going as season four Xander for Halloween:

How did he do that?
How did he do that?

Oz sarcastically laments that he’ll never find a nice girl like Cordelia, then turns and runs directly into Willow, whom he doesn’t recognize due to her ghost costume. They do the awkward, which-way-are-you-going-oh-god-I-picked-wrong-why-can’t-we-figure-this-out dance of apology before going their separate ways.

True to his costume, Xander is marshaling his group of trick-or-treaters like a drill sergeant and telling them to cry and lie to get candy. Whatever it takes to get the job done. Then we cut to Buffy and her group, almost finished trick-or-treating. The kids have just been given toothbrushes by some bastard who fundamentally misunderstands Halloween (though full disclosure, I always thought it was awesome when the fire fighters in our town handed out toothbrushes after they hand-checked our candy… which I believe they still do, even now in 2013) . Buffy consoles them by saying that they can go to one more house before they have to head back to school.

In other words, the guy at the costume shop better hurry up, because he is still chanting. And sweating. Like he was probably sweating back in the day when he and Giles would make passionate love in the back of some unfortunate rusty automobile. His ritual finishes, and Willow’s trick-or-treaters turn into actual monsters:


Oh. And Willow dies:


And suddenly Xander has a real gun, and it’s the most terrifying sentence I’ve ever typed. It also marks the beginning of a pretty ingenious plot device that wears paper thin as the series goes on.

Willow hears automatic rifle fire and realizes it’s Xander. It takes her about two seconds to work out what’s happening here, and she knows it’s bad. She tries to explain what’s going on to Xander– and accidentally phases through him. He has no memory of who she is, but Willow tells him that he’s only a soldier because he was dressed as a soldier for Halloween. A vampire in what is clearly a Halloween costume and pigtails runs toward them, and Xander aims his gun, but Willow stops him, saying that it’s still a little kid, and they just need to find Buffy to get this shit worked out. Just then, she spots Buffy, who’s wandering around in a daze. A demon and the pigtail vampire are closing in on them, and Willow asks Buffy what they should do. Buffy promptly faints. Xander uses his gun, which makes a lot of noise but doesn’t seem to fire any bullets, and the monsters are frightened away. Willow revives Buffy, and you’re gonna wish she hadn’t. Buffy has become a girl from 1775, a girl who I’m pretty sure would have been mocked for being too much of an affected swan, even back then. She also has the single worst accent you’ll ever hear on this show, including Angelus’s “Oyrish” dialect. It’s like England-flavored So. Cal. at the best of times, phone sex operator trying to sound “barely legal” at the worst.

Willow realizes that as the only person who doesn’t have amnesia, she has to be the one who fixes everything. She takes Buffy and Xander back to Buffy’s house– which Buffy doesn’t recognize– and Cordelia is running from a Big Foot or a pissed-off Ludo or something.  Xander rescues Cordelia and gets her into the Summers residence, where Willow explains:

Willow: “Okay, your name is Cordelia. You’re not a cat. You’re in high school, and we’re your friends… well, sort of.”

Cordelia: “That’s nice, Willow. And you went mental when?”

Bearing in mind, this was 1998, when “mental” wasn’t as wide-spread offensive as it is now. I’m guessing if the show were filmed today, they wouldn’t have used it. But still, #14.

Cordelia name-drops Jo Jo The Dogfaced Boy, and I’m impressed that she’s so up to date on turn-of-the-century sideshow acts. She also worries that Party Town won’t give her deposit back– hey… she hasn’t turned into her costume…

Willow tells everyone to hang tight until she gets help, and she leaves Cordelia with the amnesiac Buffy and Xander. Outside, there is general mayhem in the streets, and Spike is wandering around, soaking it all in and really enjoying himself.

Back at Buffy’s house, Xander is barricading them in with furniture, while Buffy is arguing that they should leave for somewhere safer. Xander isn’t going to go anywhere, because Willow is in charge, and Willow told them to stay:

Buffy: “You would take orders from a woman? Are you feeble in some way?”

Xander: “Ma’am, in the Army we have a saying. Sit down and shut the–“

Xander is distracted by a photo of the three of them hanging out together, and realizes that Willow is right, they do have amnesia. But let’s just take a second here to point out the fact that Xander after having been turned into a hyper-masculine, stereotypical tough-ass action hero soldier, is still way, way more feminist than regular old Xander who hangs out with his two girl best friends. Really let that sink in a second.

Xander is arguing with Buffy, telling her she’s going to have to help fight, when Angel arrives, and finds that neither Buffy nor Xander know who he is.

At the library, Giles is getting a spooky feeling…


and then Willow comes through the wall…


and Giles is so startled he loses his index cards.


I love this episode so much.

Hey, I just need to point out for a second that Giles is wearing a dark colored suit instead of tweed, and it’s fairly modern in comparison to the cut/colors he usually wears. This is for a characterization reason (I assume it wasn’t accidental), which I will get into later.

Just as Cordelia fills Angel in on what’s happening in town, casa de Summers is attacked by demons. In the fight that ensues, Angel vamps out, and his face– and presumably his enormous fivehead– scare Buffy. She runs from the house and into the dangerous outside.

In the library, Willow is trying to help Giles do research, but since she’s a ghost she can’t turn pages:

Giles: “Let’s review. Um, so everybody became whatever they were masquerading as?”

Willow: “Right. Xander was a soldier, and Buffy was an eighteenth century girl.”

Giles: “And, uh, your, your costume?”

Willow: “I’m a ghost.”

Giles: “Yes, but, um… well, the ghost of what, exactly?”

Willow: “Well, this is nothing! You should see what Cordelia was wearing! A-a unitard with… cat things, like ears and stuff.”

Giles: “Good heavens, she became an actual feline?”

This conversation makes Willow remember Cordelia’s remark about Party Town. She tells Giles that everybody who changed into their costumes got them at this new place, called Ethan’s. And then Giles’s face goes like this:

Note the panicked stare.
Note the panicked stare.

Buffy is fleeing down an alley, and Xander, Angel, and Cordelia are out looking for her. Cordelia says that Buffy can take care of herself, but Angel reminds her that in her current you-are-what-you-wore state, Buffy is totally helpless. It’s a good thing he says this super loud in the middle of the street, because that’s how Spike overhears it. Now the guy who has killed two Slayers already knows that the current Slayer is completely defenseless, and he plans on finding her. Larry finds her first, and he’s turned into a pirate on account of his costume. And like pirates have a reputation for doing, Larry chases her with intent to rape.

Giles and Willow arrive at the costume shop to find a creepy light-up statue of Janos, a dual-faced deity that Ethan used in his spell. When Ethan steps out of the shadows, Giles orders Willow to leave– and he’s not fucking around. He’s super stern, and Willow takes the hint. Then we find out that Giles and Ethan know each other:

Giles: “Hello, Ethan.”

Ethan: “Hello, Ripper.”

And thus begins one of the weirdest fandom misconceptions of all time. But we’ll get to that later in the season.

In the alley, Buffy stumbles and is accosted by pirate Larry. She’s too scared to fight him off, and I would be, too, if Ice was looming over me with scurvy teeth. Xander rushes in and rescues her, beating up Larry and defending Buffy. Thus doth the script correct the egregious wrong done unto the virile Xander’s masculinity, and there is rejoicing throughout the land. Huzzah! (#6)

Buffy warns Cordelia that Angel is a vampire, and Cordelia still doesn’t believe her. She humors Buffy by telling her the truth, even though she doesn’t know it: that Angel is a good vampire, who would never hurt her.

Okay, never is kind of a strong word to use in this season.

Spike and an army of trick-or-treat ghouls are closing in, and Willow warns them to all get inside. Angel sweeps Buffy into his arms in a moment that made a lot of teenaged girls swoon, and they run to find cover.

In the costume shop, there is a very intense vibe between Giles and Ethan that compels me to seek out fanfic. The two have some major history, judging by the way Giles says he’s surprised he didn’t figure out it was Ethan by the whole “harming the innocent” thing, and the way Ethan mocks Giles for giving two shits about not hurting innocent people.  You know some serious business went down when Ethan says:

Ethan: “It’s quite a little act you’ve got going here, old man.”

Giles: “It’s no act. It’s who I am.”

Ethan: “Who you are? The Watcher? Sniveling, tweed-clad guardian of the Slayer and her kin? I think not. I know who you are, Rupert, and I know what you’re capable of. [beat] But they don’t, do they?”

SCREECHING BRAKES, Y’ALL. Look at how amazing those lines of dialogue are. This is what they’re really saying:

Ethan: Hey audience, Giles is totally feeding you and the other characters a load of BS.

Giles: I am not, because I fully believe I am a changed man.

Ethan: You’re never going to be a changed man because deep down, you’re evil. The audience should know that you’re pretty dangerous, in a mysterious way I won’t explain. And I’ll insinuate that your young friends have something to fear from you.

But it doesn’t smack of exposition. It’s just good, old fashioned bad-guy dialogue, and the audience should be eating it up.

Oh hey, remember when I mentioned Giles’s clothes? The costuming choice of the dark suit hints at some inner darkness, and the modern cut gently nudges the viewer’s subconscious out of the comfort zone. This is an unfamiliar Giles, who looks like he maybe could be evil. I mean, he’s not wearing his ubiquitous tweed… do we really know this man at all? Case in point, when he tells Ethan to break the spell, and Ethan asks why he should do that, Giles responds by threatening Ethan’s life, then just starts brutalizing the dude with fight moves he should be using against Buffy in training.

No, dear reader. We do not know Giles at all.

Angel, Buffy, Cordelia, Willow, and Xander (in alphabetical order, be impressed, guys!) try to escape Spike and his demons by barricading themselves in a warehouse, but it’s no use, and they’re going to have to fight for their lives.

Speaking of beating people to death, Giles is cleaning blood off his hands and demanding Ethan tell him how to break the spell. When Ethan doesn’t deliver, Giles kicks the shit out of him.

In the warehouse, Spike is taunting Buffy before what he believes will be his easiest kill ever, while the rest of the gang try to fight off the demons. Ethan has finally had enough of getting his ass kicked by a guy who seems emotionally distant whilst performing acts of violence, and tells Giles to break the statue of Janos to end the spell. He does, just as Spike is about to feed on Buffy. All the demons turn into crying kids, and Buffy uses Spike’s confusion to deliver a quip and start punching on him the way Giles was punching on Ethan a minute ago. Speaking of Ethan, he knows when to cut and run. So does Spike. Giles turns to find Ethan missing, and Spike runs from the once-again blonde and punny Slayer.

With her amnesia gone, Buffy is free to go off into the sunset with Angel… or I guess it would be sunrise, since it’s so late already. Cordy has her butt in a knot over that, and Xander tells her she’ll never get between them. As they turn to round up the disturbed and weeping trick-or-treaters, they notice that Willow is missing.

Back on the porch where she died, Willow struggles out of her ghost costume. She doesn’t need it anymore, as this whole experience with taking charge and doing stuff has given her the confidence to bare her body to the collective male gaze… as… empowered women… do? Willow was strong and self-assured already. She knew who she was, and– Oh. Oh, the writers meant for us to believe that because she doesn’t want to wear skimpier clothing than she’s comfortable with, she’s a prude and not a Strong Female Character. Never mind about all that stuff I said before, about insights into her characterization and stuff.

One good thing comes of Willow taking off her costume, something that could have been achieved just as easily by Willow being reluctant to put on the sheet that made her die before: Oz is driving his right-side drive van (why is it right-side drive? This is California), spots her and recognizes her from the cultural insensitivity dance two episodes before. And he digs her, without realizing that they met earlier that day.

Back at Buffy’s house, where her mother is not home, Buffy and Angel are in Buffy’s room. Wait, the whole town was just overrun by demons. Why isn’t Buffy worried about her mom? Why isn’t Buffy’s mom worried about Buffy? Anyway, Angel asks Buffy why she wanted to dress up like an eighteenth century chick, and she tells him she wanted to be “a real girl” for a night. So, I’m supposed to find Buffy’s kick assitude somehow uplifting to my woman’s secret heart, but she’s not a real girl when she’s not wearing fancy dresses? Angel tells her that he didn’t like those girls, anyway, but that only validates Buffy as a “real girl” because a guy digs her for being the way she is. I’m actually developing a headache, trying to disentangle all these wrapped up contradictory themes. The important part is, Buffy and Angel make out.

The next day, Giles goes to the costume shop and finds it hastily deserted. Ethan has left him a note:


Ominous piano music plays, Giles casts a dark look to the left of the screen, and the end credits roll.

When you start to examine some of the underlying morality on display in this episode, it gets really confusing. On the one hand, Buffy wished she could be a storybook princess, and when she gets her wish, it disempowers her. So, yay for being modern girls? But on the other hand, it’s reinforcing the idea that all women need to be “strong” in order to be empowered, and suggests that a woman who maybe isn’t brave or all that physically combative is somehow doing the whole being a woman gig wrong. If she’s a Strong Female Character, she’s unhappy in love. But if she’s a simpering princess, the man of her dreams scoops her up in his arms and rescues her. Buffy can’t win.

Speaking of which, the constant pains taken by the writers to give Xander some sense of bolstered masculine pride are completely at odds with the surface layer of watered-down Girl Power! slapped over everything with a trowel. We’re meant to believe that it’s perfectly okay for Buffy to be a Strong Female Character ™, but she needs to take the feelings of the men in her life into consideration before displaying that strength to help them. She can’t rescue Xander, because it’s humiliating, but if Xander rescues Buffy, he’s empowered?

Ah, Joss-brand feminism.

Hope you had/are having/will have a safe and happy Halloween, everybody!

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  1. Heidi

    New recap….squeeeeeeee!!! One of my favorite episode from this season.

    October 30, 2013
  2. Lisa Dollar
    Lisa Dollar

    Nice review. I like what you had to say about Willow.

    October 30, 2013
  3. laina1312

    So, wait. Willow BOUGHT a sheet from the costume shop instead of just using… a sheet???

    October 30, 2013
    • She’d really seemed smarter than that. But maybe she just didn’t have any old sheet and didn’t want to ruin a new one.
      By the way does Willow have any parents? Have we seen them?

      October 31, 2013
      • It’s mentioned that Willow lives in a two parent household, but we only ever see her mother, and even then I think we only see her in a single episode in season three.

        October 31, 2013
    • It said “Boo” on it, though! Yeah, they should have put in a line about her mom not wanting her to cut up her sheets or something.

      October 31, 2013
      • laina1312

        I still think it would have been cheaper to buy a Walmart sheet and a Sharpie 😛

        October 31, 2013
  4. I really liked your point about Buffy’s relationships, how their screwed up by her slayer duties, and especially how the characters react to these relationships. I’m on the 5th season myself and I found it really fucking annoying how [SPOILER] when Riley left every acted like two failed (long term relationships) meant Buffy was DOOMED FOR ETERNITY to a life of cats. Like come on, she’s what? 20 or 21? She’s dated two guys total and both relationships lasted pretty long, I’d say that means she’s pretty good at the datin’ thing slayer issues aside.

    October 31, 2013
    • they’re* everyone*
      sorry, I must be really sleep deprived. ick.

      October 31, 2013
    • I’m so with you on that particular theme in season 5. Nothing gets to me more than the conversation Anya and Xander have [MORE SPOILER] after Riley leaves. Like, oh no, something is seriously wrong with Buffy, she’s had *gasp* failed relationships! The rage, it builds.

      October 31, 2013
  5. Is it just me or does Ponytail Dad up there look like Duncan MacLeod from ‘Highlander’? I’m going to pretend Mac and Amanda (and/or Methos) have adopted a child and live in Sunnydale.

    On to the actual episode:
    I choose to interpret the scene with Angel laughing while chatting with Cordelia as retroactive evidence that they’re great together. I never shipped Angel and Buffy because I always had the sense that they were in love with the idea of each other more than anything. I never felt they liked each other or even knew each other that well as people. But Angel and Cordelia were great friends first and foremost, and while the execution of their romance (such as it was) left a lot to be desired, I still think they’re better together than Angel and Buffy ever were. There. I said it.

    Also, Ripper!Giles gives me inappropriate feelings.

    October 31, 2013
  6. Lieju

    I get your point about Strong Female Characters not getting happy relationships, but does anyone in this show?

    October 31, 2013
    • They don’t, you’re right, but Buffy is the only character who doesn’t get to have a good relationship because she doesn’t fit into the stereotypical girl mode. I mean, look at how the thing with Riley ended.

      October 31, 2013
      • Lindsay

        Ok, but in general Buffy has a really unhealthy view of the importance of romantic relationships in her life, I think way more so than the other characters. I remember one episode [spoilers] from a later season (I don’t remember which), involving Faith and Buffy switching bodies from some spell. Faith basically uses Buffy’s body to get away with a ton of things which Buffy should have been really really mad about, but the ONLY thing she gives Faith shit about later is the fact that Faith slept with Riley as Buffy. Priorities Buffy? I also recall she basically accuses Riley of cheating even though, um, how the hell was he supposed to know?

        October 31, 2013
      • ladyoscar23

        I’ve never understood why the characters on the show consider Buffy “ungirly”. Even when she’s fighting evil she looks just like any other unrealistically fashionable high school show character. I think it’s incredibly sexist that somehow the fact that she can beat up vampires is supposed to make her intrinsically both unfeminine and undesirable.

        I’d much rather they went more for the theme (which does come up, of course) that being the slayer takes time away from being a normal teenager and that having that level of responsibility and exposure to darkness makes it hard for her to relate to her peers. _Those_ are legitimate reasons why she might have trouble maintaining a romantic relationship, not because guys would think “wow, she’s a hot babe who can kick ass…ew!”

        October 31, 2013
      • Hey, loving the recaps of Buffy and FSOG, had to stop reading the latter though, hilarious but my psyche couldn’t take the existence of such books.

        Like most peeps here, I first watched Buffy as a tween/teen, and then about a year and a half ago, I watched them all back to back while I was long-term unemployed and horrifically depressed.

        For me, Buffy was never in a dialogue about how girly/ungirly she was. That is a factor, but it’s not the main pull of the series (at least not the overall series; a case could be made for the first few seasons.) For me, as I watched feeling like a failure, the point is that she is a failure too – she is a delinquent, a problem child who grows into an underachieving adult. She has very very good reasons for doing all the things she hasn’t done, and for doing all the delinquenty things (like burning down the gym etc.) But Sunnydale doesn’t know, or care enough to find out. To her own perception, and the perception of the rest of the world, she is a loser.

        I would also say that what she is a loser at changes season to season. We watch things unfold from her point of view, so what she measures herself by (and what she misses due to being a Slayer) changes as she gets older. As a teen, it’s the pressure to get romantic and sexual, (SPOILERS) when she’s in uni she wants to get good marks (and she freaking does!) But then she has to leave uni and become a carer on a minimum wage job, the focus is less on romance, and more on just getting by (I always saw the thing with Spike as proof to Buffy of how low she had gotten – think of her “there has to be something wrong with me talk.” with Tara.) Like I said, I was watching this in a very specific mindset, so it is a very specific interpretation.

        Also, could the “Sissy man” line be a piece of willful foreshadowing for Larry’s big talk with Xander in Phases? Been a while since I saw it, but for some reason I remember there being some parallel dialogue.

        November 3, 2013
      • TokenOfficeGoth

        Does it also seem like Anya wasn’t allowed to have a happy relationship for the same reason? Or more specifically, because Xander didn’t feel she was “normal” enough?

        Riley, Xander, Angel…is there any man on this show who isn’t a complete and utter ass? Even Spike, Oz and Giles are given really bizarre OOC moments of just rotten jackassery to enforce this theme that men are going to break your heart if you put an ounce of trust in them x_X

        December 7, 2013
  7. Anonymous

    I thought the scene at the Bronze fit pretty well into the “Angel is a dick” theory as well. I mean, Cordy just openly insulted his girlfriend without any provocation. I’d expect any guy I was dating to stick by me in that situation. Unless he was so thick that he totally missed the insult, in which case maybe “#19 – Angel has no brain”?

    October 31, 2013
    • arsene

      Maybe that can be incorporated into “Angel is a dick”, in which case we can sorta write off a bit of his dickishness on having only a few braincells that are desperately huddling for warmth

      October 31, 2013
  8. Holly

    “And thus begins one of the weirdest fandom misconceptions of all time. But we’ll get to that later in the season.”

    You’re doing recap cliffhangers now? That’s just cruel! 😉

    October 31, 2013
  9. I love when there’s something wrong on the show. Okay, There’s always something wrong but when the characters aren’t themselves. I was glad that Xander was useful for a change and he didn’t whine at all! Willow kicks ass in every season more and more. I’m watching season 5 and this girl is one of my favourite characters. Smartest of them all.

    October 31, 2013
  10. TC

    I don’t want to be a jerk but that Joss Whedon quote isn’t exactly real. It was an imaginary conversation he was having with an imaginary reporter, not something someone actually asked him. Which kinda changes the meaning for me, especially in relation to his strong female characters ™

    October 31, 2013
    • I don’t think it changes the context of the quote at all; if anything, it makes a bit more egocentric. But either way, fandom embraced Joss Whedon as a feminist champion and made that quote their banner, so I’m just holding the show up to those standards. 😀

      October 31, 2013
  11. Betty

    “Spike puts real effort into the job. That’s why we like Spike.” Weellllll, that might be why you like Spike. I like Spike ’cause he’s the Big Bad and sexy as hell.

    October 31, 2013
    • Anonymous

      but would he be the Big Bad without demonstrating such effort? ;D

      November 1, 2013
  12. “the dark and brooding fall essentials from the Heathcliff Collection.” You just made my day and I love you.

    Now back to read the recap

    October 31, 2013
  13. Anonymous

    “In other words, the guy at the costume shop better hurry up, because he is still chanting. And sweating. Like he was probably sweating back in the day when he and Giles would make passionate love in the back of some unfortunate rusty automobile.”

    Just one more reason you are in my top 5 favorite author/blogger.

    October 31, 2013
  14. arsene

    I found the whole thing infuriating, but most of all was Angel’s “I hated girly girls” speech. If we take this show’s fucked up logic that all women were like that back then and Angel thought them too arrogant and weak… then was Angel the Xander of his time? It makes sense, in a sickening sort of way: Xander hates Cordelia for most of the first seasons because she is the unattainable lust object, so Angel hated the ‘typical’ women of his time because they were unattainable.
    Oh my goodness, people, I have just understood the Angel paradox: he’s a dick and a ‘hero’ because and the love interest because he is an author avatar, just like Xander. His vampire powers and age made him slightly less dickish than Xander but deep down he’s still the same D:
    What’s killing me is that I used to love ‘Angel’ the series.

    October 31, 2013
    • TokenOfficeGoth

      Angel honestly became WAY less irritatingly awful in his eponymous show, to be fair!

      December 7, 2013
  15. Katie

    How could they have done things differently, if they wanted to show that Buffy is personally insecure about being both the Slayer and a regular teenager, without it coming across as…whatever the hell they ended up with here? Is it an issue of the faux-feminist themes being prevalant throughout the series and thus coloring the events that happen here, or is there a better way they should have written this specific episode?

    October 31, 2013
    • There are a number of ways this episode could’ve been written better. Specifically on the whole Slayer vs. regular teenager thing, you could even leave in all of Buffy’s extreme insecurities that are problematically all about boys rather than any other teenage concerns, but just show through the actions and dialogue of everyone around her that the only one who thinks all girls must be a certain way is her. It would be a great help to show us that Buffy’s only acting like her erroneous idea of how women were back in the day, rather than telling us via Angel that they really were so strangely weak and used to being ordered around rather than, you know, running the household. Maybe Angel could’ve been like, “What? She’s clearly a noblewoman, why won’t she order Xander around?” The upperclass lady Buffy dressed up as would have been an expert at delegating at the very least, just sayin’.

      Or the episode could even have done something really great and had her act like an ACTUAL woman of that era the way Xander got to (spoiler) gain real military tactical knowledge from his time possessed by his costume. …Even more disgusted now because that tells me I can’t give any benefit of the doubt: I’m supposed to believe a woman from the pre-plumbing era of the (male and female) servant-commanding class would do or say any of those things? Ugh, anyway, showing Buffy and the rest of us that women back then were just as awesome and useful as we are now would have been absolutely amazing and a big fat NO to Buffy’s ideas about how girls/women ought to be. Instead of the giant stamp of “yes, no matter what you do, you are doin’ it wrong” approval the show actually gave to those ideas.

      Another instance of #6 could’ve been avoided had the show not let soldier!Xander rescue damsel!Buffy, thereby giving his whining about manliness the backing of the entire damn show. Again I say, UGH.

      November 4, 2013
      • The-Great-Dragon

        Oh man, I would have been SO EXCITED had they made Buffy act historically accurate. That would have been fascinating and would have lended so much to the story.

        December 14, 2013
  16. Lindsay

    I interpreted this episode somewhat differently, and I feel like Willow’s character is key to that interpretation.

    I saw this episode more as a step forward for Buffy’s character to be able to accept her role as the Slayer, and, as you said, gain a little more self esteem. Before she found out she was the Slayer, Buffy was extremely popular and perfectly fit the model of what she considers to be “a real girl.” We repeatedly see her yearning for that old life back in lots of episodes like the episode with the invisible girl where she reminisces about being May Queen at her old school and later in season 3 [spoilers] where she runs for being (home coming queen?) to try to get a piece of that old self back. [/spoilers] I think Buffy has a long struggle with trying to figure out how to be able to be the Slayer and not to lose that aspect of herself.

    I think this episode falls in that story arc with this representing one of her low points. I do not think that ALL teenage girls think dating and being pretty is the only thing in the world that is important. Willow’s character is key for showing that. Throughout the episode she constantly pushes back from Buffy’s obsession with wanting to be like a princess and her message that is the ideal for a “normal girl.” But to Buffy, that IS what she considers to be the most important thing, and when she is transformed, it’s to offer Buffy an opportunity to think harder about that desire and realize that there is more to her than just a pretty face. I do think Angel’s speech about how he didn’t like those types of girls is pretty obnoxious, but I think it’s (poorly applied) purpose was to help Buffy realize that she will not be rejected simply because she can’t make makeup and fashion her #1 priority all the time. It’s pretty clear from Buffy’s continued character development that she is not rejected for continuing to try to attain girliness while also being the Slayer, and some later episodes show pretty well her ability to attain this. [Spoilers] I remember one comment in Season 4 about the way Buffy is dressed when she is getting ready to go fight some demons with Riley’s crew, and she says something along the lines of how she’s fought in that halter top tons of times. I think that shows her growing comfort with being both the Slayer and feminine at the same time, but it’s a constant uphill battle with Buffy’s self esteem. [/spoilers].

    And I think Willow in a secondary way also fights against the notion that being physically powerless makes you a useless character. Throughout the episode Willow is even more physically useless than Buffy, except for the fact that she can’t get hurt. But Willow still takes charge and essentially leads the group to figuring this whole thing out. At the end of the episode, I saw her throwing off the ghost costume not so much a sudden character shift of “oh ho, now I am comfortable showing off my midriff,” but to show that Willow isn’t going to waste time with being concerned about her appearance right now, and being concerned with her appearance at all is not high on her priorities list. It’s pretty clear this episode didn’t represent a fundamental shift in Willow’s sense of self because she continues to wear the same kind of clothes as normal in following episodes.

    I would add a #20 Willow is amazing and throws a wrench in otherwise problematic themes.

    October 31, 2013
    • Firecat

      I’m new to commenting, but not new to the blog (I love the “50 Shades” recaps!). I have a different interpretation of Willow taking off the sheet at the end, too. I always thought that she took the sheet off at least partly because it was the costume that “killed” her, and she just wanted to be rid of it. She didn’t care what she was or wasn’t wearing underneath it, probably didn’t even think about it, she just wanted the sheet OFF already.

      November 2, 2013
  17. Mojitana

    You forgot to include links to this Ethan/Giles fanfic. For those of us with nothing better to do on this Hallowed’Eve.

    October 31, 2013
  18. Jemmy

    I never noticed Giles’ outfit was any different. I’m clearly not as alert to that sort of thing.

    Snyder putting the kids in charge of stuff I’ve always attributed to his burning desire to have them expelled, or at least Buffy expelled. If she screws up something, he can put it on her record. If she screws up enough, she gets expelled, leaves Sunnydale for a new school and the Slayer problem is solved.

    Regarding Xander’s ‘sissy man’ comment, I never thought of that as a homophobic remark. It is disparaging to guys who aren’t the physical type, and reinforces the idea that ‘real men fight’, but I didn’t see it as homophobic personally.

    I figured Angel’s “I never liked that kind of girl” speech was just to make Buffy feel better and not remotely genuine. I may be somewhat skeptical of the things men say to women they fancy.

    November 1, 2013
    • Neurite

      Ooooh, to continue overthinking Giles’ outfit… I figured the in-character reason Giles put it on (’cause it’s not like he knew Ethan was in town when he put on the outfit) is because the girls put the idea in his head that Jenny Calendar may be interested in him. So now he has motivation to dress nice.

      The cool thing is that this still works with Jenny’s interpretation! It just gives him a logical in-world reason to be wearing this outfit at this time. But the mere fact that, when he is motivated to do so, he can dress more snappily, makes the point that the whole “oh silly me, I just wear these stuffy old-fashioned clothes because I’m an old fuddy-duddy who doesn’t know better” is indeed an act. Part of a persona he’s putting on. And it sets the audience up for wondering what’s really underneath it all (with the color scheme helpfully suggesting “whatever it is, it’s dark). And voila, it just so happens that Ethan is in town to drop some serious hints about Giles having another side!

      Also, I’m so glad that I am not the only one picking up on some major Ho Yay between Ethan and Giles. And wow, really, the guy just kicked the crap out of you, and you’re leaving him a “Be Seeing You” card? If that’s not some kinky flirtation, I don’t know what is. (This comment may have been brought to you by major wishful thinking on my part.)

      November 2, 2013
    • Nemora

      “Sissy” is sometimes used as an insult to gay men. Also, anything that disparages a man for being too “feminine” about something (i.e. not fitting the masculine ideal) has homophobic connotations. Since society acts like gay men are more feminine than straight men. So, with this logic, since feminine man = gay and not-feminine man = straight, if you insult a guy for doing feminine things, there’s the connection of not respecting gay men.

      Of course there’s all sorts of things wrong with the idea that gay men are more feminine, but this is how many young men in America are socialized- the avoidance of seeming “gay” at all costs through avoiding feminine things. And if a boy does do a feminine thing, there’s more often than not bullying that follows- often connected with the idea that if he does x and y, he must be a “fag.”

      So that’s why Xander’s comment is homophobic. Doesn’t matter if he was being consciously homophobic or not, because that’s the social undercurrent behind and around his statement.

      November 3, 2013
  19. Neurite

    I actually really love that the hypermasculine soldier Xander turns into also happens to be quite feminist. Not sure if the writers did it on purpose, but it neatly makes the point that masculinity and sexism/misogyny are not somehow inextricably connected. We have developed this widespread notion that to be truly masculine, you also need to be a sexist/misogynist asshole, and that association really needs to go die in a fire. There’s nothing whatsoever wrong with being masculine. There’s just everything wrong with toxic masculinity and the way it pretends that all kinds of fucked-up, bigoted, hateful things are somehow intrinsically necessary for being truly “masculine”.

    Also, thank you so much for that paragraph contrasting Buffy and Willow’s sense of self. That was all kinds of insightful and inspiring, and put its finger on something I love about early-series Willow that I never quite consciously realized.

    November 2, 2013
      • Neurite

        Aw, thanks!

        November 5, 2013
    • Wartgin

      This ties in well with the (probably apocryphal) story my mom used to tell us. This was in the 70s so was likely set in the 50s or 60s. Seems a guest attending a party at a bullfighter’s house noticed the host was missing and wandered off to look for him. When found, he was changing a baby’s diaper and the guest made some comment about wasn’t he worried that people would think it was unmasculine. His response was “I am a man. Everything I do is masculine.”

      November 30, 2020
  20. Petra47

    Ethan Rayne (R.I.P. Robin Sachs) is by far my most favorite recurring little bad in the series (second being Mr. Trick).

    Giles’ menace in the beating scene is only topped by his “Would you like me to convince you?” line to Snyder in Season 3. I love, love, love Ripper.

    November 2, 2013
  21. TokenOfficeGoth

    Uh can I just say, this episode makes me INCREDIBLY EXCITED for the Ethan follow up episode, “Band Candy”, where Giles goes all Johnny Rotten cum Bruce Springsteen, complete with cigarettes rolled into the sleeve of his t-shirt. The sonic boom of collective ovaries exploding was heard the world over. I think we can all safely agree, despite the hotness that is Spike, Joyce is the Summers woman who got to have the most awesome sex scene.

    One thing about this episode bugs me in hindsight. One of my favourite, favourite Buffy lines of all time comes from the episode “All the Way” in season 6, in which Spike says:
    “It’s Halloween, we take the night off”, and some nameless vamp says “We’re rebels man” or something to that effect. Then Spike awesomely, badassfully replies, “I’m a rebel, you’re an idiot” before shooting the red shirt with a crossbow. I love that scene to death. Marsters’ delivery is pretty much fantastic.

    Okay but, what? How can Spike even reasonably say that given his actions in “Halloween”? UGH the continuity error, it hurts me.

    December 7, 2013
    • Erica

      Well, Spike doesn’t have anything to do with the ritual, so he probably considers this just a great opportunity rather than a Halloween thing. Also, Spike is pretty full of himself, so he probably feels like he’s earned the right to cause a ruckus on Halloween but the newbie needs to stay in line.

      January 16, 2016
  22. Passerby

    Late to the party, but will add: I don’t remember what kind of van Oz is driving in this episode, but in some areas it is common for postal vehicles to have right-hand drive so the carrier can drive along and stick mail in roadside mailboxes without having to get out first. From time to time I see people buying old postal vehicles with all the logos painted over, I assume because it’s “quirky.”

    December 9, 2013
  23. Janice

    One thing you should learn from watching Buffy is that Joss designed her as character first and trope/trope breaker second ie she walks away, brooding and unloved, as the iconic imagery goes, but she does so because her connection to the world itself is tedious.

    Systemically (macrocosm) she is valued conditionally, just as she is underutilized for her actual skill set, socially she has essentially been abandoned by both parents and often experiences everything with the very real concept of LAST MOMENT and biologically she is part supernatural creature. She is at odds with the world but loves it, therefore, that dichotomy extends to her as a metaphor. She not only fulfills and yet breaks the common trope but she does so as a fully explored person. She does not bail out because ‘strong’ girl = weak person AT ALL but rather because Buffy as an individual hides her fears and discomfort { both as the stereotypical (and often male) hero would do — and this is an image we are familiar with– but also as the real woman would do, because she knows how little weight her feelings hold against every other weight in her world ie the ingrained ‘well, this is stupid to say but…’}. This changes the trope, it builds it into a real world frame while also changing the way we see the trope represented in the future, specifically for women. The Punisher’s got nothin on Buffy’s graspable and often insular problems.

    And the script is NOT stating that Cordelia is the normal representation, but that Buffy is. That we all, with our personal demons (our absent parents, our mentally ill friends and selves) feel abnormal set to the cultural model of vapid happiness and languid put downs (which isn’t real ex. Cordelia’s own enormous loneliness, her sick mother, her disappearing wealth) but it is precisely that insecurity which bankrupts our relationships. That we can stand up to our terrible problems but have someone point out that we struggling at all and we are consumed with hiding instead of conquering. It is the allusion of unflappable we are taught to embrace culturally, even if it’s fucking stupid. Not every feminist character has the represent the very best of people, exploring that very backwards ways people try to deal with the world is just as important for representation.

    And pointing to Buffy’s track record as an example that the show correlates normality with happiness is purely untrue, the ‘normal’ people don’t get relationships either, they get slaughtered or disenfranchised or disappointed. Cordelia was strong before she left Sunnydale; I think your problem is that you have a very very narrow view of what STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER is. And I also think you fail to recognize that this kind of oversaturation of tragedy is a constant in long running stories, as well, her solitary life isn’t a statement on strong women but on heroes, in order to keep the story going, no one can be happy.

    This episode is about the fact that we are taught to believe that certain lives are more easily lived, especially feminized lives. We, like Buffy, are told that people like Cordelia, like princesses, are happier and more rewarded when they are not. The problems of the world are still out there, they have just been denied (or handed in) their objection to them. Buffy does not take on the affect of a real princess, but rather the gendered assumption she has been taught and failed to live up to. And that assumption is one so floppy that even Xander, who has been established by the show to be the most ineffective Scoobie, has to save her. The show, by the very context of its characters, is showing how very wrong Buffy’s minimization of her own strength is.
    And that is what Angel dismissed in the former centuries’ women, minimization of their own worth. He doesn’t care if she is in slacks or sushi pj’s, embracing her natural role as compassionate leader is what makes her most purely her and what Angel is attracted to (since he spent most of his life being a total jackass no one could look up to).

    And it isn’t that she is unhappy in love because she is SFC, she is unhappy in love because love itself has been built up for her culturally. Angel will never take the place of her dad, carrying her away in a fluffy dress, because life will never be that simple again, in fact, it never was. Also he is in fact paralleled fairly strong to Xander (whom the show points out, is a tool, all the time, everyday) in self obsession and ‘protecting her’ in backhanded ways.

    Buffy can’t win, not because women can’t win, but because the show is already taking a queer perspective to love – they are the ‘othered’ relationship, and Buffy’s desire for denied traditions, her coming out, all play a part in that. They are not unhappy because they are wrong but instead the world is wrong, the priorities they have been taught are wrong and the cages they build for themselves are wrong. The box is not enough, it is dimensions too small. And that is what the show is gearing up to discuss.

    (And your point on Willow’s esteem is all well and good but Willow also suffers from a poor sense of self, validation of her role will also take a huge place in her life as she is also undervalued though instead it will be through a queer perspective. Her slightly embracing the Aerosmith outfit wasn’t an indictment of fuzzy sweater Willow as ‘prudish’ but rather another exploration of expectation and costume and also foreshadowing, Willow will try to break out as a ‘cool girl’ and she will be no more happy than she was before. Both nerd and cool girl are cultural traps. The people who matter (Oz) are the people who couldn’t give two shits about where you fit.)

    Go read some Slayage articles because in some very glaring ways you are missing why this show was a cultural and feminist milestone.

    November 13, 2014
  24. Donna

    Stumbled across these reviews while doing my own rewatch (currently up to Ted). Two down so far, I’m looking forward to reading the rest. Amusing, very in-depth and although this is at least my 4th full rewatch since the series ended you have made me think about certain aspects I usually ignore. *plus you have my everlasting respect for throwing in a Ludo reference:-). Hope you finish the reviews .

    January 25, 2015
  25. Malcolm Dunbar (@MalcolmXDunbar)
    Malcolm Dunbar (@MalcolmXDunbar)

    “Buffy never has a successful romantic relationship, specifically because of her Slayer duties. Meanwhile, Cordelia racks up the boyfriends, goes on to a spin-off show, finally becomes a well-rounded and realistic character, and then every shred of the character is brutally destroyed when she finds happiness. The show constantly reinforces the notion that if you’re a Strong Female Character ™, you don’t deserve love, because being a SFC is enough.”

    You are missing the pivotal point here, they don’t receive happily ever afters because of their heroic sacrifices. No one in Buffyverse gets a happy ending, mostly due to the fact that them being heroes and selflessly doing the right thing means they have to give up their lives in doing so. It’s not a woman thing, it’s a hero thing. Everyone goes threw it. Everyone one the show must sacrifice their lives to the great good. None of the men get happily ever after endings in Buffy either, they are in no better position than Buffy herself is.

    February 3, 2015
  26. Holly

    Man, that angel monologue at the end. So much of the backstory they give him contradicts what he says there. “I hated all the noblewomen back then”…not that I knew any because I was a middleclass Irish teenager whose family only had the one maid. “I just wished I could meet a girl who was exciting”…and when I finally did she killed me and turned me into a demon.

    February 12, 2015
  27. Crystal

    I know this is from forever ago and that you may not see this, but I’ll feel better once I say it. Jeepers Creepers takes place in spring, not on Halloween. It’s ‘every 23 years for 23 days, it gets to eat.’ Or something to that affect. I know because despite loving those movies, I’m still terrified to leave my house every spring and have been for almost 14 years now. They also make sure it’s known that Dairy and his sister are on spring break going home. Again, sorry to be that person.

    February 19, 2015
  28. Anon123

    “Though it seems to fly in the face of discord to do a spooky ritual on Halloween, when everyone should be expecting that kind of thing. He should just do it on a random Saturday.”

    LOL! Also, this gives me an excuse to use my all-time favorite verse of “Old Time Religion”:

    We will all go worship Loki,
    He’s the old Norse god of chaos,
    Which is why this verse doesn’t rhyme…or scan……….
    And that’s good enough for me!

    April 25, 2015
  29. Anon123

    I love your insights here, particularly about Giles’s costuming. Do you think it’s also meant to hint at/tie into the you-are-your-costume plot, like putting on different clothes enabled Giles to access his dark side for the first time in the series?

    April 25, 2015
  30. This is the episode I remember most vividly from when I watched BtVS in its original prime time run. I still really enjoy the premise, it’s like an episode of The Twilight Zone.

    Was Buffy supposed to have an English accent while in the costume? I always thought she sounded like she was doing a mediocre Scarlett O’Hara impression.

    I’m glad you brought up Angel wearing normal human clothes because I hate that. It’s so weird and off-putting to me. He wore a khaki-colored jacket earlier in season two and I also hated it then.

    Speaking of clothes, I noticed that the back of one of Buffy’s tank tops says D&G, as in Dolce And Gabbana. Is this one of the things that her dad was supposed to have bought her when she was in LA? Because I don’t think Joyce is making that much money at her small town art gallery.

    January 10, 2016
  31. Kim

    So a couple seasons on Dru tells Spike she knew he was falling for Buffy even before he did. I’m guessing him obsessively rewatching video of Buffy fighting over and over while enthusing to his minions about how awesome she is might have been an early sign of that!?

    March 28, 2019
  32. Nichol DeCastra
    Nichol DeCastra

    Honestly it would have been interesting is they had made Buffy’s Halloween persona accurate for the time period and the slayer from that time period. But I guess if they did that they couldn’t go with whatever bullshit Aesop they were trying to go with in regards to her and being a girly girl. Despite ya know they fact that she is pretty fashionable with her outfits in day to day life.

    January 17, 2020
  33. Nichol DeCastra
    Nichol DeCastra

    Honestly it would have been interesting is they had made Buffy’s Halloween persona accurate for the time period and the slayer from that time period. But I guess if they did that they couldn’t go with whatever bullshit Aesop they were trying to go with in regards to her and being a girly girl. Despite ya know they fact that she is pretty fashionable with her outfits in day to day life.

    January 17, 2020

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