In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will spend way too much money ona sexy lady Giles cosplay costume. 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
- Spike is capable of love despite his lack of soul
- Don’t freaking tell me the vampires don’t need to breathe because they’re constantly out of frickin’ breath.
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.
This is probably one of the more disturbing episodes of the series. If you’ve ever experience abuse of any kind from a step parent or a parent’s partner, this recap might be triggering. Just a heads up going in.
So, Willow and Xander and Buffy are strolling down the Sunnydale sidewalk, deep in debate over who was steering the ship, metaphorically speaking, The Captain or Tennille. Now, you might think this is one of those times where I’m going to go, “How would 90’s high schoolers even know about The Captain and Tennille,” but ha ha, I remember the 90’s and there was a huge nostalgia boom for the 1970’s going on at the time. I think the release of Dazed and Confused in 1993 sparked the whole thing, because we were wearing overalls, bellbottoms, and platform shoes in high school.
Anyway, Xander points out how unusually quiet Sunnydale has been lately, and then in doing so realizes that he’s at the beginning of an episode and has thus doomed them to participation in plot. Sure enough, when Buffy gets home, the front door is unlocked. Something is wrong. She warily makes her way through the house, all the way to the kitchen, where she finds this horrible scene:
Now, before we go any further, there is something about this scene I’ve never really thought about before. When Buffy comes into the house, she hears a glass breaking and her mom saying “No!” and then she runs into the kitchen to this. The explanation is that she broke a wine glass, and I’m sure the viewer is supposed to go, “Oh, because they were making out so hard she broke the wineglass and was like, ‘No!’ about it before she just thought, fuck it, I’ll keep getting some more of this sweet, sweet John Ritter tongue.” But this time, knowing what I know about what’s going to happen in the rest of the episode– that John Ritter is actually an evil robot abusive husband who kidnaps and murders his wives– I have to wonder… how long has Joyce been in an abusive relationship with this guy? She just shouted “no!” and a glass broke, and then when Buffy comes in she has this unconvincing excuse… again, I’m sure that’s supposed to be parental awkwardness we’re meant to see, but if you think about it from that angle, it’s quite dark, isn’t it? It makes it seem like dude attacked her to get that make-out on.
Joyce– is that the only dress Joyce owns? I’m pretty sure she wears that exact dress to a date in season 5– introduces Buffy to John Ritter (the titular “Ted”) and Buffy makes the exact same face I made in the presence of my mother’s long term boyfriend every single time we were in the same room:
After the main credits, Buffy is grilling her mom about Ted. She mentions that her mom has been working “late nights.” So, Joyce has been with this guy a while, then? Is that why we’re never seeing her in season two? Is that why season two is exactly like my junior year of high school?
Ted is a computers guy, and in the kitchen he and Willow are having a very, very 1990’s conversation:
Willow: “I like my new nine gig hard drive.”
Ted: “But you don’t love it, ’cause without the DMA upgrade, your computer’s only half a rocket ship.”
No, you dummy, it’s a computer. But seriously, nine gig hard drive? That was the kind of cutting edge technology most of us could only dream about in 1997.
Here’s another red flag, you guys: Ted has just met Buffy, has just met her friends, but he offers to give Willow those upgrades for free. He’s also made a pizza, which is the way to Xander’s heart. So he’s weaseled his way in good with Buffy’s friends. I find that kind of behavior so unbelievably creepy.
He also immediately tries to tell Buffy how important she is to him, because she’s important to her mother. Like, who does this right after they just meet you? Oh, manipulating abusers.
Joyce tells Buffy she wants her to be okay with the new relationship situation. Which is really unfair, because it’s like, “Buffy, I want you to decide to be cool with this immediately. No pressure, just, you know. Make your feelings convenient for me.” Buffy insists she’s okay with everything, but then we cut to a fight with a vampire in a cemetery in which Giles has to tell her to take it easy on the vamp. He eventually just sits on a bench and looks on in discomfort as Buffy uses the vampire as a punching bag, before ultimately staking him.
Buffy: “Any others?”
Giles: “Well, for their sakes I certainly hope not.”
Buffy: “What? Kill vampires, that’s my job.”
Giles: “True, true. Although you don’t usually beat them into quite such a bloody pulp beforehand. Everything all right?”
Hey, buddy. You seem like you’re feeling down. LOL
Even though Buffy starts ranting about vampires and mini-pizzas, she ultimately decides not to tell Giles what’s wrong.
The next day at school, Xander is still talking about the damn mini-pizza. Both he and Willow love Buffy, and though she has a bad feeling about Ted, her friends try to pass it off as some Freudian mommy-issue. This is one aspect of the gang that annoys me. In season four, when Buffy’s roommate is a demon and only she can see it, they do the same thing. Oh, it couldn’t be that there is really something off about this person. It’s that there’s something wrong with Buffy. It’s one thing to go, “hey, buddy, you’re misreading the situation,” and another to actively pressure that buddy into thinking there’s something wrong with their own emotions.
But their conversation is cut short when Ted shows up. At their school. He’s there to update the computer system, but come on. Still creepy. He invites all three of them to go mini-golfing, putting Buffy on the spot so she has to accept, because her friends want to go. Well, actually, Willow tries to cover for Buffy when Buffy says she’s busy, but Xander, always thinking about Xander, chooses promises of pizza and cookies over his friend’s needs.
Meanwhile, in the computer lab, Giles has to tell Jenny that some text books meant for her class were delivered to the library. Full disclosure, when I was rewatching this episode, I had my headphones on and I was drawing, so when Giles walked into the classroom and said, “Hello, Jenny,” I looked up and was like, “Hello…?” in my office. It was a bit disconcerting.
Jenny calls him out on the real reason he’s there:
Jenny: “Rupert, I know you’re concerned. But having you constantly poking around, making little puppy dog eyes at me, wondering if I’m okay… you make me feel bad that I don’t feel better. I don’t want that responsibility.”
TRUTH. It is so fucking refreshing to hear someone saying this in a piece of popular media. Sometimes, concern can overwhelm the person you’re trying to be concerned for. And Giles, in a rare moment of just straight fucking up, doesn’t get it. He’s wounded by the fact that Jenny doesn’t want him to smother her with worry to make himself feel better, and he doesn’t hide it. Which isn’t fair to Ms. Calendar. This is such an important, quietly powerful scene, guys.
At Angel’s place, Buffy is tending her vampire boyfriend’s wounds from the incident with Spike and Drusilla. And maybe Buffy needs to get a little perspective on life, because she’s bandaging up someone’s wounds while complaining about her mom’s boyfriend. Though Angel doesn’t outright tell Buffy she’s wrong, he does note that she’s a little obsessive, and that her mom is probably lonely– something Angel understands. He also points out that Buffy would probably not like anyone her mother dated, and Buffy knows that’s true; she would rather her parents have stayed together. And then, for some reason, that situation gets Angel hot and he’s all, “Kiss me,” and Buffy’s all, “Yay!” and then we get to watch an underaged teen make out with her centuries old boyfriend. We’ve been Twilighted, y’all.
At mini-golf the next day, Ted asks Buffy if boys are lining up to date her. Willow almost spills the secret about Angel, but instead she says that Buffy is too worried about school to bother with guys. Which leads Ted to make a remark about how he hopes Buffy’s grades will come up. Excuse me, Ted?! Excuse me, Joyce?! I’m not a fan of “blame the mother” in cases like this, but on this one point? Joyce shouldn’t be telling Ted about Buffy’s grades. Buffy isn’t a second-grader, she’s a high schooler. Why isn’t she entitled to some privacy?
Oh, because Joyce thinks it’s okay to tell Ted private stuff about Buffy because he’s concerned about her. Okay. Speaking as a mother, if a guy I had just started dating was that interested in my kid, that would be an issue for me. Granted, I’ve never been a single mother. I don’t know how hard it is. And I’m not blaming mothers who have abusive partners deceive them. But in our culture, which still upholds a two parent family as the pinnacle of functionality, we need to stress that too dad, too fast is a warning of potential danger. This happens in real life, for real reasons though, so our #3 doesn’t apply here.
It gets worse when Buffy beefs her shot– I guess I’d never thought of it before, but it probably is really hard for a Slayer to mini-golf, due to difficult to gauge super-strength– and
Joyce: “Oh, we won’t count it.”
Ted: “We won’t?”
Joyce: “No, it’s just miniature golf.”
Ted: “It is, but the rules are the rules. And what we teach her is what she takes out into the world when we’re not there. Whether it’s at school or an unchaperoned party.”
Do not criticize Joyce’s parenting, Ted. That’s my job.
Xander and Willow are even kind of… ehhhhhhh maybe Ted is not as cool as we thought:
Joyce is clearly a little put off by Ted’s parental intensity, but in an effort to keep the peace, she sides with him. Of course you do, mom.
Buffy is not having this mini-golf crap, so she goes and picks up her ball and drops it in the hole, thinking nobody can see her. But Ted sees her, and he gets real serious, real fast, going on a rant about right and wrong and how nobody appreciates the difference anymore. He’s pounding on his leg with the putter, and Buffy is pretty freaked out. When he says he doesn’t stand for cheating in his house, Buffy tells him it’s a good thing they’re not in his house, and he threatens to slap her. Just then, Xander, Willow, and Joyce come up, and Ted does a personality one-eighty, offering them all cookies.
This show is a little too real sometimes.
The next morning, Buffy tells her mom what happened and how Ted threatened her, but her mom doesn’t believe her, stating explicitly to Buffy that what she thought happened did not happen.
This show is a little too real sometimes.
At school, Buffy asks Willow to investigate Ted. But Willow and Xander both still think Buffy is overreacting. The conversation is cut off when Cordelia walks by and Xander gives her a compliment she storms off and he follows her. She’s pissed because he was nice to her in front of people, because she thinks it might blow the lid off their secret kissing times. But all the altercation accomplishes is more kissing times, so the viewer is given the distinct impression that this is something that’s been happening a lot.
Buffy asks Willow to find out where Ted works, and Willow must have helped her out, because we cut to Buffy at Ted’s work. This is Ted at work:
Okay, so later we find out that Ted is a robot, right? So… why wouldn’t a robot pick a better job than selling computer software over the phone?
Remember in the ’90’s where they sold computer stuff over the phone instead of on the internet? What a time that was.
Buffy finds out that Ted is like, the leading sales guy at the place where he works, and they call him “The Machine.” So, you know. Foreshadowing.
Ew, I wonder if Joyce calls him “The Machine.” You know what I’m insinuating.
The coworker Buffy speaks to is “counting the days” until Ted takes time off for his wedding in two months. And Buffy is all, WTF. She goes to Ted’s desk and sees a photo of her mother there. She finds it suspicious and when she takes it out of the frame she finds that it’s a picture of her and her mother together, but Ted has folded Buffy under, effectively cutting her out.
At dinner that night, Ted is saying grace:
Ted: “We thank you for what we are about to receive, and we ask that you bless this house and help the people in it to be more productive, more considerate, and more honest.”
And then he looks right at Buffy. And Joyce just sits there, her hands folded in prayer, even though we’ve never once seen any evidence of religion in the Summer’s house.
Buffy is about 300% done with Ted’s shit. She asks point blank if Joyce and Ted are engaged, and Joyce is surprised by the question because they’re not engaged at all, despite what Buffy heard at Ted’s work that day. But Ted gets all “let me handle this,” about the situation, and steamrolls right over Joyce to play daddy to Buffy. When he asks her how she would feel if he asked her mom to marry him, Buffy says she’d feel like killing herself, and Joyce gets angry. She sends Buffy to her room, and apologizes to Ted, saying she doesn’t know what’s up with Buffy’s behavior.
You know why you don’t know what’s going on with your daughter, Joyce? Because you never do, because #3. Now, to be clear, I’m not blaming Joyce for what happens later in the episode, because that’s not her fault that she doesn’t know Ted is an evil abusive robot boyfriend. But it is her fault that she won’t ever talk to her daughter, even when she’s not being manipulated by an abusive boyfriend. Parents have to talk to their children. Even if she thinks Buffy is being irrational. Even if she thinks Buffy is overreacting. Joyce can’t be bothered to talk to her daughter about important shit most of the time, which is why Buffy is constantly consulting her friends for help. “Oh, she feels like she can’t go to her mother because she’s a teenager.” Yeah, and because her mother doesn’t listen to her when she does try to go to her.
Maybe I’m just biased against Joyce because I know what it’s like to have a parent get into a serious relationship with someone you don’t like (yeah, Mark) or suddenly find religion when they start dating someone new. But Joyce hasn’t bothered to ask Buffy how she feels about all this aside from asking for approval, which isn’t fair. Even if Buffy’s issues won’t affect Joyce’s choice in a romantic partner, she should at least still ask how Buffy feels about this new addition to her life, and she should intercede on Buffy’s behalf when Ted oversteps his bounds. Which is like, always and constantly.
When Buffy is stressed, she needs a good slay. Unfortunately, there are no vampires in need of slaying at the moment, so she’s hooped. She goes back home, climbs through her window, and finds this:
Buffy is outraged that Ted is in her bedroom, and even more outraged when she sees that he’s been going through her things, which he equates to Buffy sneaking into his work. He even read her diary, and asks her what a vampire slayer is, and threatens to have her thrown into a mental institution for her delusions.
Hey, remember in season six, where Buffy thought she was in a mental institution? Okay, just checking.
When Ted tries to take the diary as evidence, Buffy puts her hand on his arm to stop him, and he full out punches her in the jaw. Then Buffy really opens up and gives him a beating in front of her horrified mother. Someone who is clearly not John Ritter falls down the stairs and dies. Like, for real. He fucking dies.
When the police respond, Joyce gets questioned:
Detective: “Ma’am, I’m detective Stein. I’m sorry, but I need to ask you a few questions. Your relationship with the deceased?”
Joyce: “We were, um, seeing each other.”
Detective: “Can you tell me what happened?”
Joyce: “He fell. Down the stairs. He fell.”
Detective: “I see. Uh, did he slip? Do you know what made him fall?”
Buffy: “I hit him.”
Buffy is torn up. Seriously torn up. This sets the tone for an incident in season three. Buffy doesn’t know that Ted is an evil robot right now, so she thinks she just killed a man.
At the police station, Joyce seems more worried about her daughter than her dead boyfriend, which I can get down with. I’m sure Joyce is pretty freaked that her daughter knows martial arts and how to beat someone to death and the subject never came up.
In the interrogation room, Buffy tells Detective Stein that Ted had threatened to slap her before, and that he hit her, causing the fight. Since she has that pesky slayer thing going on, she doesn’t have a bruise, so the screw doesn’t believe her.
The car ride home is tense. And at school the next morning, everyone in the halls are openly talking about Buffy. Even a pair of teachers. But her friends are there to support her:
Xander: “What was he? A demon, a giant bug, or some kinda dark god with the secrets of nouvelle cuisine? I mean, we are talking creature feature here, right?”
God damnit, Xander.
Though Xander and Willow try to make her feel better about the situation, there’s really no good way for Buffy to justify killing a person, even in self defense. She knows that in the strength department, a human is outmatched against her, and she lost control. She can’t handle being around her friends anymore, because they want to make her feel better and she doesn’t want to feel better. Giles spots her in the hallway, urgently calls her name and actually runs toward her to make sure she’s okay. “Hey, there’s that librarian who is always creepily hanging out with her,” the many, many students and faculty members who are viewing Buffy with interest today think. “It’s very strange that he is touching her.” Ha ha, just kidding. They don’t think it’s strange at all. (8) When Buffy realizes that Giles has been talking to Detective Stein, she can’t deal with him, either, and takes off.
In the library, Giles is packing up his medieval weaponry as fast as you probably would if the cops were swarming the place. Willow is digging for dirt about Ted online while Xander paces and raves about how there had to be something evil about Ted. (15) Before you dismiss that as Xander having Nice Guy goggles on for Buffy, remember that Xander is often the Ron Weasley of this show, and he’ll say shit that totally comes true later. This is one of those cases. Giles tells the teens that whatever the law could do to Buffy won’t be as bad as what she’ll do to herself, because taking a human life is terrible and the emotional consequences, etc. Which Giles knows about, since he feels responsible for the deaths of his friends. Which Cordelia helpfully points out:
Cordelia: “I guess you should know, since you helped raise that demon that killed that guy that time.”
Giles: “Yes. Do let’s bring that up as often as possible.”
Xander finds cookies in a backpack, and while he eats them Giles announces that he’s going to go out vampire hunting since Buffy can’t. When he leaves, Xander has done a personality flip. In fact… he sounds an awful lot like Ted. And Willow is like, “Let me snatch that cookie from you,” because she’s Willow and she’s made the connection.
Cut to Joyce sadly packing away cooking stuff. When Buffy comes in and tries to talk to her, Joyce tells her she’s not ready to talk about the Ted thing, and sends Buffy to her room. Meanwhile, at the science lab, Willow has somehow been able to analyze the cookies and discover drugs in them. Sunnydale must get some staggering fucking grants, if they’ve got a CSI lab in their school. The drug Willow found is a mood-altering tranquilizer, which explains why Joyce was so goddamn chill about Ted barging in and parenting her child. Cordelia shows up with a folder full of information on Ted, including marriage licenses (plural) and his address. The kids decide to go over there to get to the bottom of things.
Giles is out, looking to fight vampires while also looking like the last thing he wants to do is be around a vampire, when someone comes up behind him and scares him. Don’t worry, it’s only Ms. Calendar. She apologizes to him for being harsh earlier, because she knows he feels bad about putting her danger. And Giles is like, yeah, I do, because there’s a vampire right behind her.
I don’t like that Jenny apologizes. First of all, she was right. It wasn’t her responsibility to make sure he doesn’t feel bad about something he should legitimately feel bad about. And she did deserve her space. But whatever, because we need to go check in with Buffy. Important shit going down over there. Like, her window is nailed shut.
Buffy: “Well, it’s official. Today can’t get any worse.”
Ted: “Beg to differ.”
WTF! TED! We thought you were DEAD! It rhymes, so it must be true!
Ted throws Buffy across the room, and Giles takes on the vampire. Giles, as always, does a surprisingly good job of not getting instantly killed. I may have said this before, but it’s my head canon that Watchers are trained in the same fighting style as their Slayers, even if they’re not as good at it, and that’s why they can train the Slayers. It only makes sense.
Ted tells Buffy that he had to “shut down” so she’d lower her defenses, and he gets her at a disadvantage and chokes her. Back at the Giles fight, Jenny accidentally shoots him with a crossbow, and like a total fucking badass he pulls the bolt out of his back and dusts the vamp with it. Let’s file this one under our running tally of times Giles has displayed inexplicable badassery.
Before Buffy loses consciousness, she manages to grab a nail file off her dresser, and she stabs Ted in the arm with it, exposing all kinds of wires and sparks:
Ted starts to short circuit. He hears Joyce downstairs and he kicks Buffy in the face, knocking her out or at least down, and tells her not to worry about her mother, because they’re going to be very happy. Yeah. That sounds legit.
Xander, Cordelia, and Willow arrive at the address they found for Ted. It’s just an abandoned wood shop. That’s not the only thing that’s not adding up. Ted has four marriage certificates and no divorce records– and his earliest marriage was in 1957, which would mean he was probably still in diapers or something. Cordelia notices that the rug on the floor doesn’t match the interior design theme of the house, and that clues them in that it’s hiding something.
At the Summers’s house, Joyce is shocked to find that Ted is alive. He describes an impossible scenario in which he was dead for six minutes, then came back to life and was found alive in the morgue. But… okay, Ted? Even if that had happened, it really hasn’t been long enough for a guy who was clinically dead to recover and get discharged from the hospital, right? And doesn’t that shit generally end up on the news? Joyce totally buys the story and tells Ted that Buffy didn’t mean to hurt him, and he tells her she doesn’t have to worry about Buffy. Which should be pretty ominous, don’t you think, Joyce?
Back in the haunted wood shop, the Scoobies find themselves in a little 1950’s style bungalow bomb shelter, just like that movie with Brendan Fraser and Christopher Walken. I think that’s who was in that. Alicia Silverstone, too.
Okay, yeah, so anyway, Xander opens one of the closets and finds Ted’s four dead wives, blue beard style. And here’s how you can tell that our ragtag little band of heroes is becoming jaded about death and violent crime: when they go back up the stairs, Xander turns off the lights. Imagine, dear readers, that you’re in a small, subterranean space with four dead bodies. When you go up the narrow little ladder to escape… do you turn off the lights and leave only the yawning darkness behind you?
Yeah, that’s what I thought. Xander does not fear death.
Joyce tells Ted that she wants to talk to Buffy about his return, and Ted gets super pissed off. He yells about how he’s the one who died, so they should be more worried about him, and as he promises to take Joyce away where no one can bother her ever again, he shorts out and blurts something about gravy. He tells her he doesn’t take orders from women. He’s not wired that way. If Joyce isn’t tipped off that he’s an evil robot yet, whatever, but she knows something is dangerously wrong with Ted.
Back at the park, Giles is trying to be very tough and manly about his crossbow wound:
Giles: “I think I’m all right.”
Jenny: “No, you’re just in shock.”
Giles: “No, no, really, I don’t think it went in too deep. The advantages of layers of tweed. It’s better than Kevlar.”
Oh, Giles. I love you so much it hurts. But Jenny is a smart lady and she decides to cut the bullshit and get him to a hospital.
Buffy wakes up on her floor and chokes a little, presumably on some teeth because she got kicked in the damn face. Downstairs, Joyce tells Ted she’d like to get a drink, but he says they have to leave, and that she’ll love the house. She tries to escape again by saying she should pack, but he tells her he already has all of her clothes. Oh, and that she left him once, but he keeps bringing her back. When Joyce isn’t enthusiastic about leaving, Ted pushes her into the wall, knocking her out. He intends to carry her off to his murder bunker, but something distracts him. It’s Buffy, and she’s got a frying pan attack.
Ted the evil robot is out of commission.
Some time after the above happens, Buffy and her mom are sitting on the porch eating candy. Joyce says she’s afraid Ted will come back– she doesn’t know he’s a nightmare robot, she thinks he’s just a regular serial killer.
Somehow, I feel like “robot” is more comforting than “serial killer.”
At school, Xander hashes out the bits of the storyline that weren’t shown. This could be clumsy and generally stupid, but Buffy is there, and we don’t know if she’s heard the story yet, so we can give it a pass. But look, if you’re writing something, and you’ve got a character going, “As you know, last week you and I went looking for a new car…” that’s not acceptable at all. You know better than that. You are better than that.
The deal with Ted was that he was dying, and his wife left him. He built a robot Ted so that he might live on, kidnapped his ex-wife, kept her prisoner until she died, then did the same thing three times with four different wives. I assume they didn’t die from natural causes, then. Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Cordelia all resolve to return to life as normal. But then they try to go into the library and see this:
I really like this episode, because it’s playing up a fantasy that most children of single parents have: finding out something really horrible that will turn their parent away from their romantic interest. God knows I had those fantasies when my mom was dating. I was always just waiting, just aching to see her boyfriend’s face pop up on America’s Most Wanted (I’m still watching, Mark).
I would have liked to see a scene where Joyce tells Buffy she’s sorry she didn’t believe her about Ted threatening her, though. Instead, we get a scene where Buffy listens to her mother’s fears, without any reassurance. Joyce is a pretty selfish parent. When she’s not under the influence of robot cookies, she still can’t be there for her daughter, hence my #3 on my list.
This episode is also a great example of what can often, sadly, happen when a new man comes into mom’s life. I’ve known far too many kids who were physically, sexually, or emotionally abused by a mom’s boyfriend because she believed “he would never do that.” While I’m sure it happens if a partner of another gender comes into the picture, as well, I feel like we hear overwhelmingly about the stepfather or the mom’s boyfriend hurting her kids. Again, I’m sure it happens with dad’s boyfriend or mom’s girlfriend, and non-binary variations thereupon, but we hear about it all the time about men and women in heterosexual relationships. I think this is because heterosexual men can sometimes see a woman’s children as her weakness, and they can use them to exploit and trap her.
And we place the blame on the mother every time, because “she should have known! How could she not know?” Which is a huge component of the “circle the wagons” attitude when mothers discover that their partner is abusing their child. Because we so often hear, “How could she not have known? Why didn’t she protect her child?” the first thought the mother probably has is, “How could I not have known? Why didn’t I protect my own child?” That’s something pretty heavy to have in your head. No wonder denial is such a popular option. In this episode, the denial is pharmaceutical; Ted has been drugging Joyce, therefore she is blind to his flaws.
By the way, and this is totally anecdotal, but I’ve never heard anyone say about a father whose female partner abused his children, “Why didn’t he know?” In those cases, I think you’re more likely to hear, “She tricked him! He couldn’t have known!” We hold the woman responsible for the abuse, no matter whether she was or not.
When we see Joyce, Xander and Willow denying Buffy’s gut instinct that this guy is a danger to her and her mother, despite all the red flags, we’re seeing a situation that actually happens to far too many kids. Sans evil robots.