In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will panic that her taxes aren’t filed, before realizing that it’s not April yet. She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:
- Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
- Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
- Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
- Willow’s magic is utterly useless (this one won’t be an issue until season 2, when she gets a chance to become a witch)
- Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
- The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
- All the monsters look like wieners.
- If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
- Angel is a dick.
- Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
- Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
- Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
- Science and technology are not to be trusted.
- Mental illness is stigmatized.
- Only Willow can use a computer.
- Buffy’s strength is flexible at the plot’s convenience.
- Cheap laughs and desperate grabs at plot plausibility are made through Xenophobia.
- Oz is the Anti-Xander
Have I missed any that were added in past recaps? Let me know in the comments. Even though I might forget that you mentioned it.
WARNING: Some people have mentioned they’re watching along with me, and that’s awesome, but I’ve seen the entire series already and I’ll probably mention things that happen in later seasons. So… you know, take that under consideration, if you’re a person who can’t enjoy something if you know future details about it.
There’s a career fair at Sunnydale High! Which is pretty optimistic, considering 3/4 of these kids are going to die before/at graduation. But whatever.
The gang has to take a career aptitude test, and Xander laments that he’d rather be young and stupid, rather than chained to a preordained career path. Except way, way dumber than I just said it.
Willow: “You won’t be young forever.”
Xander: “Yes, but I’ll always be stupid.”
Cordelia and Xander trade a barb about how selfish she is and how poor and ugly he is. Man, Xander and Cordelia are super classist in their insults.
The point everyone seems to be missing is that Buffy is sitting right there with them, taking the test even though she knows that all her miserable future holds is a non-paying, super violent job that’s going to end with her untimely death. At this point, she’s already died once, so it’s not like she hasn’t figured this all out. Willow doesn’t understand why Buffy wouldn’t want to know what kind of job she could have had. Thanks for twisting that knife, Willow.
Meanwhile, Drusilla is taking her reverse French manicure for a spin over some really grimy tarot cards. Dude, you can get some new ones. They’re like fourteen bucks on Amazon. Spike is forcing a nerdy looking vampire in a tragic vest to read to him in Latin. They can’t figure out what the book they stole from Giles a few episodes ago says, and this is causing a problem. Drusilla is weak, and Spike says they’re running out of time. He’s also pretty obsessed with the slayer. Which brings me to something that bothers me in the fandom. Occasionally I’ll see people say, “I liked Spike before he was obsessed with Buffy,” and “they made Spike weak when he started stalking Buffy.” But he has always been obsessed with and stalking Buffy. He came to Sunnydale to kill the Slayer. He is relentless in his quest to kill her, going to extraordinary lengths and nearly dying in pursuit of her several times before the romance storyline between the two of them comes up. Spike has been engaged in a literal game of “Fuck, Marry, Kill” with only one option for all three from the moment he showed up on the show. So no, his characterization didn’t change suddenly in season five. There are a lot of reasons to dislike the romantic subplot between Buffy and Spike, but “he got obsessed with her” doesn’t hold water. I find it suspect that a favorite crush among the predominately female fandom was “ruined” as a character the moment he became romantically interested in Buffy, especially since one would have to ignore three prior seasons of the show to justify that “he was better before” position. Just saying.
Drusilla uses her cards to learn that the book is only decipherable with some kind of key, so surprise! Guess what the plot of this two parter is.
Meanwhile, in the cemetery, Buffy is wearing brown shoes with a black outfit, because this is the 1990’s and everyone was on some kind of “let’s see how ugly we can dress” kick. She finds the little accountanty vampire in a crypt, chiseling away at something. You know what? I’m going to call that guy Radar, because he has glasses and that reminds me of Radar O’Riley from M*A*S*H. Anyway, Buffy waits outside the crypt so she can crack wise when Radar comes out, but then a different vampire attacks her, and she’s so busy staking him that Radar gets away.
Angel is Edward Cullening in Buffy’s room when she comes in through the window and catches him hugging Mr. Gordo, her stuffed pig.
Buffy: “And you don’t have to whisper. Mom’s in L.A. till Thursday, art buying or something.”
Angel: “Then… why did you come in through the window.”
I love that exchange.
Angel says he came over because he had a bad feeling, and Buffy calls him out on once again showing up just to be the harbinger of bad tidings. She starts to tell Angel that career week is bumming her out, but he already knows about career week because he’s a fucking stalker. (#9)
You know, the more I think about it, the more I’m pretty sure that Angel was Stephenie Meyer’s inspiration for Edward Cullen, and not a dream as she claims. Seriously, he’s a vampire, he’s old, he’s incestuously tied to his little vampire family (although they’re not as functional as the Cullens), he lurks around high schools and he comes into his love interest’s room uninvited like, all the time.
I’m just saying, there are similarities.
Buffy tells Angel that she wishes she had a normal life, and he immediately makes it all about him by asking if she means her life before him. Yes, Angel. Buffy’s world revolves around you. Who do you think she is, Bella Swan?
Angel sees a picture of Buffy ice skating as a little girl, and Buffy is like, “My Dorothy Hamill phase.” Which I don’t get. Buffy was born in 1981. Dorothy Hamill wasn’t an amateur champion at that time, she was headlining the Ice Capades. If anything, child Buffy would have been going through a Rosalynn Sumners or Katarina Witt phase. I don’t get why she says she wished she could be someone who had already gone pro by the time she was born, when pro skaters don’t get nearly as much attention as amateurs in Olympic years.
You know what else is funny? Julie Benz, who played Darla on this show? She was actually an ice dancer who went to junior nationals in the 1980’s. Some of this trivia can be chalked up to my obsessive knowledge of BtVS. Some of it can be chalked up to my embarrassing figure skating past. Let’s never talk about either again. (Sarah Michelle Gellar also figure skated.)
Angel suggests that he and Buffy should go skating the next day, which is really kind of sweet, because Buffy said that skating was an escape for her when her parents were fighting, so at least he’s like, considerate when he finally takes the time to not make literally everything in her life about himself.
The next day, Cordelia and Xander are looking at the test results, which are just posted on a bulletin board. That’s totally weird. “Hey, everybody can see how you did on this test!” Whose idea was that? That won’t lead to bullying at all. Cordelia came up with personal shopper or motivational speaker for her career, while Xander got prison guard, and don’t think Cordelia didn’t comment on that.
Actually, prison guard isn’t too bad a job, if you’re cut out for it. The most popular girl at my high school, from one of the richest families, became a prison guard. Or an heiress. I don’t remember which. I might be getting something wrong there.
Buffy got law enforcement, which actually makes sense, because she’s already kind of a law enforcement person. Except it’s demon law. Or demon justice. Or human justice against demons. Whatever.
Willow’s name isn’t on the list, and she immediately freaks out because she knows she handed in her test, and Willow takes this school shit way more seriously than I ever did.
Because Giles isn’t banging Ms. Calendar, he’s got a lot of pent up stuff going on. This has led to manic indexing of Watcher diaries:
Giles: “You’d be amazed at how numbingly pompous and long-winded some of these Watchers were.”
Buffy: “Color me stunned.”
Buffy tells Giles about the vampires stealing from the crypt, and he goes all freak out Watcher on her because she didn’t try to find out what the vampire took. They get into a fight, and Buffy points out that if he wants a better Slayer, she would have to be dead. And this changes Giles’s attitude right a damn way, but he’s still concerned about whatever the vamps were doing.
So, now Spike has this relic thing, which looks exactly like something you could steal out of any old cemetery:
Spike goes on and on about his grandiose plans for Sunnydale domination, and part of that includes this group of deadly bounty hunters he’s going to hire to kill the Slayer.
At school, Willow can’t find Buffy, and Xander says that she went on a “field trip” with Giles. Again, this doesn’t ring any warning bells for anyone on campus? The librarian is just taking a student off school grounds in the middle of the day? (#8)
This is like, the dumbest part of the episode, okay? Wait for it. Willow tells Xander that Buffy had better get back soon, or Snyder is going to be mad. But when she says “Snyder,” she notices him coming down the stairs. Now, he doesn’t notice her noticing him, and they’re easily twenty feet away. He doesn’t even see them when he’s walking down the stairs until they call attention to themselves and approach him to give him some cock-and-bull line about why they were just mentioning him. He clearly did not hear them in the first place! What is even happening?! YOU GUYS ARE BAD AT THIS.
Two guys in suits come up and whisk Willow to a private, curtained off area of the career fair, where classical music and hors d’oeuvres await. Seriously, this is in Sunnydale High, and this area is all sectioned off, presumably for the kids who did really good on the test.
Someone was paid to write this episode.
The guys in suits explain that the CEO of the leading software company in America has been watching her for some time, and she’s going to meet with him once his private jet arrives. There is only one other student who also placed so highly at this whole career fair thing:
And lo, Willow and Oz became a thing, and the Lord saw that it was good.
In an rare daylight excursion to the cemetery, Buffy and Giles are still fighting. Buffy reminds Giles that while he’s allowed to have a job as a librarian while being a Watcher, she doesn’t have the freedom to integrate a career with her slaying. And then Giles asks her if she’s considered going into law enforcement. Good thing for him they’ve arrived at the crypt they needed to check out.
I think it’s the same crypt, all the time. I should go back and check on that, and see if it’s always the same crypt, because it looks very similar to the last one, and the ones in the future, until Spike moves into his crypt, which looks different.
So, they go inside and Giles realizes the person buried there is some long ago excommunicated Catholic dead guy who wrote the book that the vampires stole from the library a few episodes ago. So this is obviously pretty bad. The book was written in code, but Giles is pretty sure whatever they took from the crypt has to do with the book. He warns Buffy that something is going to happen, and it’s not going to be rad.
Meanwhile, at the bus station:
This guy is one of three supernatural bounty hunters who are like, apparently the biggest bad asses on the planet. And this one is traveling by bus. Okay, let’s go with that.
Next up in the badass bounty hunter line up is this dude, pretending to be a door-to-door cosmetic salesman:
He stops at the house next door to Buffy’s and dupes the woman who lives there into letting him inside. The guy’s name is Norman Fister, and I laugh like a twelve-year-old. Of course as soon as the door closes, blood-curdling scream.
At the airport, a baggage handler gets his ass kicked by this girl, who has apparently stowed away in the hold beneath the plane. Verily, I doth call bullshit, for they check for that kind of thing, and not just post-9/11, because stowaways on airplanes often die. But anyway, here she is:
Back at Sunnydale high, Willow beats a dead horse named exposition, and Giles commits a grammar error that a freaking Watcher/librarian/linguist should know better than to make:
Willow: “So Giles is sure that the vampire who stole his book is connected to the one you slayed last night? Or, is it slew?”
Giles: “Both are correct, and yes, I’m sure.”
NO GILES! THAT IS A BAD GILES! The past tense of slay as in “murder the hell out of someone” is slew. The past tense of slay as in, “that joke is slaying tonight,” is slayed. Now, I’m not saying I always rock the proper grammar casbah, but we’re talking about a situation where the dude is known for his stuffy literate tendencies. He can decode long dead languages. Ergo, he should know his shit where grammar is concerned.
So, now that our hearts are all broken by evidence that Giles is a human being and not some godlike font of all knowledge, we can move on to the meat and bones of this scene: Giles has figured out that the relic stolen from the crypt was a decoder ring, and now they all have to work late into the night figuring out what was in the book without having either the book or the decoder. When this threatens Buffy’s date with Angel, Willow suggests that the Slayer needs her rest for whatever is going to happen with this whole book thing. And Giles sees the sense in that, so Buffy should be in the clear. But then she’s all, “I have somewhere to be,” so way to blow Willow’s carefully crafted ruse, Buffy.
The place Buffy had to be was the skating rink, where she’s doing a bunch of three turns, open mohawks, and inside edges to the theme from Mine Craft. This tells us that Sarah Michelle Gellar got to at least Delta level testing in ISI training. The scary bus rider is there watching, and he apparently doesn’t appreciate basic footwork technique, because he’s all glowery. Buffy goes for a lunge and falls (who the fuck does a lunge or a shoot-the-duck when skating for fun?), and that’s when the big scary dude attacks her. Angel runs to her rescue, but ultimately it’s Buffy’s quick thinking and appropriate use of figure skates in a brawl that end the guy when she bloodlessly slashes his throat and he falls to the ice dead.
Drusilla and her tarot cards see the death of the big scary dude, and the cards reveal to the viewer who the next two assassins will be. The first card, representing the dude that just failed hard, is a big scary devil. The next one is a centipede, so we know that will be involved somehow, and the other is a jaguar. If we go in order of introduction, with the first to arrive and the first to attack being assigned to the devil card, then the second dude on the scene is related to the bug somehow, and the girl from the plane is the jaguar.
Back at the rink, Angel spots a ring on the dead assassin and warns Buffy that she’s in grave danger. I don’t know why he doesn’t just record that and play it back, he says it so much.
Buffy is concerned about the beating devil dude just laid out on Angel, but he doesn’t want her to touch his face or anything because he’s all vamped out. To make him feel better, Buffy says she didn’t even notice, but come on, how do you not notice this?
They start making out in super close proximity to the dead body, aka, they start making out in Sunnydale in general, while jaguar girl stealthily watches them.
Back at the library, Giles explains to Buffy why Angel was so freaked by the ring:
Giles: “This ring is worn only by members of the Order of Taraka. That’s a society of deadly assassins dating back to King Solomon.”
Xander: “And didn’t they beat the Elks this year in the Sunnydale adult bowling league championships?”
Giles: “Their creedo is to sow discord and kill the unwary.”
Xander: “Bowling is a vicious game.”
Giles: “That’s enough, Xander!”
Fucking THANK YOU! Once again, Buffy is in mortal danger, and once again, Xander is making his dumb little jokes. I get that the show is supposed to have some comedic moments to break the tension– and this one is here to underscore it, because Giles loses his patience, something he rarely does– but holy shit, Xander. Shut up a minute. Your friend could be dead right now.
Maybe Xander makes his little jokes to ease his own fears that Buffy might be killed. He probably wants to escape the reality of the nightmare world they live in, that nobody in town talks about. But that needs to be made apparent every now and then. I’m trying to think of a single instance in this series where Xander explains why he’s so flippantly sarcastic every time they’re in danger. I ride the Xander Harris hate train right on in to Fuck You, Buddy junction until “The Zeppo” in season three. If Xander had been given a single human moment where a character asked him why he always did this shit, and he said, “Because I care about Buffy so much, I can’t stand taking any of this seriously or else it will crush me and I’ll be utterly useless in the fight against evil,” I would be like, “Fuck yeah, Xander!” The writing treats him super unfairly, in this respect.
Giles tells Buffy she needs to go hide somewhere while these assassins are looking for her, which freaks her out, since witness protection was Angel’s idea, too. Giles explains that the Order of Taraka isn’t like fighting a vampire or something, because they literally don’t want anything other than to kill their target. And there are all flavors of them, and all of them work alone. As Giles goes on to tell Buffy that she’ll have no idea who is a member of the Order until they killing her, we cut to the salesman guy represented by the bug on the tarot card. This dude is Oogie Boogieing out in the worst way, with his bugs just spilling all over the dead lady’s house.
Back at school, Buffy is staggering around the halls, looking at everybody like any one of them might be a murderer:
Buffy sees danger everywhere– even in poor Oz, who she slams into a wall– yet later that night, she’s just roaming around Sunnydale in the dark, like no big. Xander, Giles, and Willow are all worried about her. They can’t figure out where she would have gone.
Hmmm. A sixteen-year-old girl whose mom is out of town… hmmm… where would someone like that go, if not home?
Now, obviously most sixteen-year-old girls just go over to their boyfriends house to make out, not to break in. But that’s what Buffy does, because he’s not home. In a scene positively dripping with teen hormones, Buffy first dares to sit on Angel’s bed, then lie on it.
On. his. bed. Where people do the frick-frack.
The reason Angel isn’t home is he’s in a hardboiled detective novel right now. He goes into a bar playing the most cliché music ever, to talk to a guy with a bad New Yawk low-level crime dude accent. The guy even says he’s “living right” in an attempt to keep Angel from beating his weasel face in for information.
Willy and his stupid bar are a low point in any episode in which they show up. Basically, Willy runs a seedy bar where vampires and humans are both welcome, and of course, as a bartender, he has all this secrety info. The exchanges are so film noire and out of joint with the rest of the series, it makes me wonder if Willy wasn’t the transition to ease us into Angel. Like they knew they would spin it off eventually and they wanted the audience conditioned for the detective show detour by putting Angel into detective show scenes that exist within the overall framework of the original show.
Angel asks Willy if Spike is the person who ordered the Taraka hit on Buffy, and Willy tries to deflect by saying he just got some pig’s blood in from his fence–
Why would you have to fence pig’s blood? Human blood, I believe. But pig’s blood? In Carrie, a group of high school kids get their hands on a whole bucket of it without any repercussions. I mean, I assume there were no repercussions, I’ve never watched the end of that movie. But anyway, it’s not illegal to have dead pig matter in your house, so why would you need a shady underground source to get your hands on it? That doesn’t even make sense.
Somebody got paid to write this episode.
Willy doesn’t want to tell Angel what’s up, because he’s afraid of Spike, but I guess the devil who’s smashing your face into a table and threatening to kill you beats the devil who isn’t there at the mo, so Willy is just about to spill his intel when someone whacks Angel from behind. It’s the jaguar girl, who breaks a mop handle in half and tries to stake him. Since we know there’s a spinoff called Angel, in which he is not an actual angel (because that show would be called Highway to Hellmouth), obviously she doesn’t succeed. She does, however, succeed in kicking his ass up and down Willy’s store room, and she’s got him like this:
when Angel says:
Angel: “Who are you? You tell me what I need to know, I won’t hurt you.”
LOL, Angel. She just beat the fuck out of you and kicked your ass into some shelves so hard that you fell down, and you’re all winded (for some reason… hey! Let’s add that to our list! #19: I thought vampires didn’t breathe), but you’re not going to hurt her? She finds it just as funny as we do, and she locks him in a big metal mesh cage.
Why do all the buildings in Sunnydale have cages? If they did, it would be a tremendous bit of foresight that we just could not reasonably expect from this town, so it has to be a coincidence.
In an offensively bad “Jamaican” accent that the actress herself was uncomfortable with and was forced to do after she was cast, despite her reservations (#12), the presumed assassin asks Angel about Buffy. He won’t talk, but she points out that since he’s locked in a room with east-facing windows, he’s boned whether he talks or not.
Back at the library, Giles is still desperately trying to find Buffy. He calls Xander– I bet Xander’s mom is like, “Sweetie, why is an adult man calling you in the middle of the night? Oh, never mind, this is Sunnydale, I don’t care or notice,”– and tells him to go out and search for Buffy again. Then he finds Willow sleeping across the keyboard of the bronze age Compaq that passed for a computer in the 1990’s. This is where we learn that Willow has frequent nightmares about frogs, and nothing about her could be more adorable.
By the way, I love every single Giles/Willow interaction on this show. Yes, even the “rank, arrogant amateur” one in season six. What I love about their dynamic is that while Giles puts Willow on a different level from the other scoobies, probably due to her respect for academia. They sense a kindred spirit in each other, so they have this kind of professional respect. Later, we learn that Willow had a crush on Giles for a little while, but that makes the whole relationship so much better, because her teen girl crush never out paces the whole “partners in learning important stuff” aspect of their friendship. We never question that Willow’s interest in Watcherly stuff could possibly be related to her Giles-crush, and it would have been very easy and predictable for the writers to play an angle like that for laughs.
Anyway, Giles has figured out what was in the book that the vampires stole. It was a ritual for healing a wounded vampire. This kind of makes me wonder why the Council has books that they don’t know the contents of. Or at least, why they wouldn’t lock a book like that up in a vault so vampires couldn’t get it. “We have this ancient, presumably dangerous book we can’t translate, but there are supernatural beings out there who probably could. Where should we keep it? A PUBLIC SCHOOL LIBRARY RIGHT ABOVE THE HELLMOUTH!”
I’m imagining that all caps part as something two Watchers are saying at the same time, in mounting excitement over their shared brilliance.
Back at the factory, Spike quotes a line from My Fair Lady because Radar has translated the ritual, and we cut to Cordelia and Xander walking up to Buffy’s door:
Cordelia: “I can’t even believe you. You dragged me out of bed for a ride? What I am, mass transportation?”
Xander: “That’s what a lot of the guys say, but it’s just locker room talk, I wouldn’t pay it any mind.”
Yay for more slut shaming (#6). And excuse me, Xander, but when are you ever chumming it up with dudes in the locker room? You have no male friends, because you don’t want to fuck them, so what’s the point? (#5). However, Xander has something going for him in this episode, and that’s the fact that I think this is the first time any character has actually used the term “Scooby gang.” I think this might actually be the episode that term comes from.
Xander breaks into Buffy’s house suuuuuuper easily. We know that vampires can’t enter a house without being invited, but what about the other oogie boogies we’ve seen? Like the literal oogie boogie, Norman Fister, who shows up at the Summers residence and tempts Cordelia with free samples, so she lets him right in.
Angel is still locked in the increasingly sunny room, and the Jaguar girl who put him there finds Buffy at his apartment and the ass kicking begins. During the fight, Jaguar girl asks Buffy who she is, and Buffy is all, hey, you’re attacking me and you don’t even know me? And that’s when we find out that Kendra isn’t one of the assassins at all. She’s a Slayer. And Buffy’s face goes:
To be continued…