In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will make a Sim of herself and a Sim of Rupert Giles and force them to be neighbors and fall in love and do woo-hoo. 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.
- The foreshadowing on this show is freaking amazing.
- Smoking is evil.
- Despite praise for its positive portrayal of non-straight sexualities, some of this shit is homophobic as fuck.
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.
I realize that I’m only in the middle of the second season and I have five more seasons to go, but I just heard of a dude who’s been recapping the Left Behind books for ELEVEN YEARS so I don’t feel bad about this at all.
I’m putting a content warning up because there’s a lot of talk about rape and sexual harassment in here.
The episode begins with Oz intently examining the cheerleading trophy that poor Amy’s mom is eternally trapped in. Willow comes up and they start talking in their stilted, quirky way about the date they recently went on. It gets awkward, so Willow sees Buffy and uses her as an excuse to run off, leaving Oz to deal with that Larry guy nobody likes. Larry is, as usual, in full-on sexual harassment mode, but Oz is gentleman, so he won’t kiss and tell when Larry asks how far he’s gotten with Willow.
He’s apparently not going to kiss, either, because after a cutaway set up worth of an Archer episode, Willow complains to Buffy that Oz hasn’t made a single move. Willow laments the fact that she’ll be the “only girl in school without a real boyfriend,” and that gives Buffy sad face, because, you know, her boyfriend turned evil.
Oh! That reminds me! A commenter on the previous recap pointed out that I missed the opportunity to use #1 in reference to Angel losing his soul to the nookie. I haven’t overlooked it, it’s just such a long, ongoing plot point that I wanted to save it to the end of that arc, so it wasn’t like beating a dead horse.
I’m also slowly amassing a collection of “1” related .gifs for an explosive celebration of the anti-sex season two theme that will freeze the ever-living fuck out of your phone if you try to read it on there.
Willow instantly feels bad for her remark, and Buffy is very forgiving. That’s what I like about this show, and Buffy’s character in particular. She doesn’t get so wrapped up in her own misery that she can’t care about and feel happy for her friends. And they care about her, too. Even though Willow and Xander both have love interests, they’re going to get together to share Buffy’s heartache.
Willow: “Great, I’ll give Xander a call. What’s his number? 1-800-I’m-dating-a-skanky ho?”
Willow: “Really? Thanks. I’ve never gotten a meow before.”
Teen girls talk like this with their teen girl friends. I get that. But it’s such a bummer that I have to slap a #6 on here because of something that happened in a scene that only a moment before was showing a nice moment of supportive female friendship, free from insecure competition.
Speaking of insecurity, after Willow wonders aloud what Xander could possibly see in Cordelia, we cut to Cordelia and Xander making out in a car. Xander pulls away to fume about what Willow could possibly see in Oz, and the whole thing grosses me out. In the first place, Xander never wanted Willow or cared about guys being interested in her until he couldn’t have her anymore. The only way she has become attractive to him is because she’s no longer on standby for him (#5). In the second place, the cut to this scene juxtaposed with Willows remark about what Xander sees in Cordelia tells the audience that the only thing Xander is interested in with Cordelia is physical pleasure. And yeah, sure, that’s pretty much what we’ve seen from them on both sides so far, but it makes me mad that we can have Willow wanting to have an intimate physical relationship with her boyfriend in a positive, healthy way, and that’s good because it’s Willow, but Cordelia’s sexuality is a punchline, and the only positive angle of being in a relationship with her, apparently (#6).
And I feel bad for Cordelia, because as she points out to Xander, most of the time he spends with her, he’s talking about Willow or Buffy. So it does bother her:
Cordelia: “Look around. We’re in my daddy’s car. It’s just the two of us. There is a beautiful, big full moon outside tonight, it doesn’t get more romantic than this. So shut up!”
Then, because this is Sunnydale, they start to make out and the camera pans back and of course there’s a werewolf. Why wouldn’t there be a werewolf?
Here is a case of the kids, the actual Scoobies, falling prey to #8. You know you live in a town full of demons, vampires, and assorted shitty gross monsters. So why on earth would you think, “Hey, I’ve never heard any kind of campfire stories or urban legends about a guy and his gal up at make-out point meeting some kind of horrible, grisly end. Since our town is full of monsters, let’s drive into the woods and make out!”
But that’s what Xander and Cordelia have elected to do, and after the opening credits, everything goes exactly as you would expect such a scenario to go in Sunnydale. Xander hears something outside the car, and Cordelia, finally at her bullshit limit for the night, tells him that they’re leaving because he’s been so distracted by his Willow thoughts. But before she can turn on the car, the werewolf punches through the roof, she fumbles the keys, there’s screaming, but she eventually gets the thing turned on and they drive off, throwing the werewolf from the roof of the car in the process.
If I lived in Sunnydale, I would keep my keys on one of those springy plastic bracelets around my wrist.
The next day, Xander and Cordelia brief the rest of the Scoobies on their werewolf encounter. Giles tells them there were a lot of mutilated animal carcasses found the night before. While everyone kind of assumes they have until the next full moon to check this shit out, Willow points out that last night was the night before the full moon; the real full moon isn’t until tonight. This flies in the face of what Giles knows about werewolves, and he is psyched to do some researching.
Buffy: “Looks like Giles has some schoolin’ to do.”
Giles: “Yes, I must admit I’m intrigued. Werewolves–it’s one of the classics. I’m sure my books and I are in for a fascinating afternoon.”
Buffy: “He needs to get a pet.”
In gym class, the teacher warns the kids that Sunnydale is getting more and more dangerous, so she’s going to teach them some self defense maneuvers so they can protect themselves.
Buffy: “Here’s a suggestion: move away from the Hellmouth.”
Yes, Buffy. You are correct. Here we have the odd moment of a Sunnydale adult not engaging in #8, though she doesn’t bring wooden stakes into the equation and I just feel like vampires are such common knowledge that they should at least have an assembly explaining how to fight them off.
While they move into groups to practice their self-defense, Xander notices that Larry is wearing a bandage around his arm. Larry tells him that he was attacked by a big dog that jumped out of the bushes and bit him, and Oz says:
Oz: “I’ve been there man. My cousin Jordy just got his grown up teeth in. Does not like to be tickled.”
And he holds up his finger to show that he’s been bitten by Jordy.
Larry menaces a girl in his assigned group, so Buffy comes up and menaces him, until Willow reminds her, hey, you’re supposed to be a normal human girl who is unable to punch through Larry’s chest and rip out his still-beating heart.
Because the gym teacher has never met a teenage boy before, she lines up all the girls in front of the boys to teach the girls how to defend themselves if they’re attacked “from behind.” Buffy is paired with Larry, and tries to downplay her strength, struggling to flip him over her shoulder until Larry grabs her ass and says she’s turning him on. She slams him into the fucking ground. Good for Buffy.
I’m sure teenage girls go through this same kind of bullshit at school still, which pisses me off. I remember guys saying some pretty disgusting shit and getting away with it. I remember specifically when I was a freshman in high school, a kid in my math class would say the most disturbing sexual shit to me. “I want to rape you with that pencil,” is the one that sticks out most in my memory. And there was a girl in my class who was a junior who lost it over that remark. I was fourteen, just transferred to a new school where I didn’t know anyone and was painfully shy, so I tried to keep my head down and ignore this kid. Junior girl stood up and shouted, “The way Ben is talking to this girl is disgusting, and he needs to be thrown out of class before I kick his ass!” I bring this all up because in this scene, Larry is first making sexual threats to this mousy, timid girl before Buffy steps in, and now Buffy is paired up with him. And it just reminded me of that incident, and the way that girls will sometimes put themselves at risk to protect other girls from disgusting guys, and it starts as early as high school. And this whole thing has just brought up how shitty teen girls have it, because in school they’re forced to go everyday into this environment where they’re trapped with people who sexualize them, from administrators (your bra strap is showing!) to their fellow students, and there’s absolutely no recourse to escape it.
That’s a fucking bummer, and this show was tackling it back when I was in high school. And that makes me feel vindicated, but also sad, because why the fuck haven’t we learned anything after all this time?
In the library, Giles is lecturing the gang about what the moon does:
Giles: “And, uh, while there’s absolutely no scientific explanation for lunar effect on the human psyche, the phases of the moon do seem to exert a great deal of psychological influence. And the full moon seems to bring out our darkest qualities.”
Xander: “And ironically led to the invention of the moon pie.”
Giles. “Oh. Yes, moon pie.”
Giles thinks this joke is hilarious. While he laughs like a dork (an adorable, adorable dork), Buffy and Willow make these faces:
Giles explains that the werewolf is so powerful or something that it comes out for three nights, the full moon and the night on either side of it.
Giles: “And it acts on pure instinct. No conscience. Predatory and aggressive.”
Buffy: “In other words, your typical male.”
Xander: “On behalf of my gender, hey.”
Giles: “Yes, let’s not jump to any conclusions.”
Buffy: “I didn’t jump. I took a tiny step and there conclusions were.”
Yeah, Buffy, knocking down a “Not All Men” protest with awesome snarkery!
The werewolf could be anybody who’s been bitten by a werewolf, and they can’t use silver bullets to hunt it, because it’s a person and might not even know what they’re doing. Cut to Buffy and Giles at make-out point–no, this isn’t a fanfic–looking for the werewolf in the hopes of capturing it. Giles’s stellar plan is to knock on car windows and ask if anyone has seen anything, and Buffy is like, obviously not because everyone is making out and also I saw a guy cheating on his girlfriend.
As Buffy walks through the woods, she stops on a snare trigger and gets jerked into the air in a big net. I guess that’s considered a kind of dangerous stunt because of a potential for neck and back injuries, so good going, stunt!Buffy. A guy with a shotgun is standing like, three feet from her, ready to shoot. She shouts for Giles, and he confronts gun dude, who is like, I have the gun so I ask the questions or whatever. He lets Buffy out of the net and then things go straight to statutory land:
Gun dude: “I gotta say, I’m impressed.”
Giles: “Excuse me?”
Gun dude: “Well, it’s good to get the fruit while it’s fresh.”
Giles: “You’d be wise to take that back.”
Gun dude: “Hey, what a man and a girl do at lover’s lane at night is nobody’s–”
And then Giles lunges at him, and Buffy has to hold him back.
Gun dude is a professional werewolf hunter. He doesn’t give a shit if they’re people, he hunts them down and sells their pelts on the black market. He also tells them that werewolves are going to be drawn to places where there’s a lot of sexual energy.
Hey, werewolves are drawn to sexual energy…I bet they get a shitload of werewolves at creepy child abuse sex house from season four.
But let’s back up for a minute. I’ve noted before that Buffy spends a lot of time with Giles, and there are adults who know about it. She spends late nights in the library with him, sometimes doing aerobics. Nobody in Sunnydale seems bothered by what, to those who don’t know the Slayer situation, would appear to be an inappropriately close relationship between a grown man who is the school librarian and a teen girl who is a student. UNTIL WEREWOLF HUNTER MAN SHOWS UP. It takes somebody coming in from outside of the town to point out that the dynamic looks suspicious, backing up my assertion of #8.
Somewhere else in Sunnydale, a girl is walking down the street when a werewolf jumps out and attacks her. JUST KIDDING! It’s Angelus. He jumps out and acts super nice to her, offering to walk her home. So everything is going to go just fine for her, you’ll see.
At the Bronze, Willow and Cordelia are sitting on a couch, having a surprisingly supportive conversation about dating Xander and Oz. And then the werewolf attacks them.
The werewolf that is draw to sexual heat.
Attacks Willow and Cordelia.
OMG YOU GUYS FEMSLASH ALL THE FEMSLASH!
(Yes, I know why the werewolf attacked them specifically. Just let me have my dreams).
Buffy and Giles arrive as the Bronze is emptied of screaming people. Buffy fights the werewolf and gets a chain around its neck, but it gets away, anyway.
Well… actually, it just kind of strolls away:
The werewolf follows a blood trail where he finds–OH! Now I recognize her! It’s the girl from gym class! Theresa? Or something? The one who was afraid of Larry the Bully. I totally missed this literally every single time I’ve watched this episode. I thought I knew everything about Buffy. I was wrong. I was so, so wrong.
Anyway, she’s dead now. Angel kind of looms over her dead body, growling at the werewolf, and they have an animal contest until Angel recedes into the shadows. I don’t know what it’s all about, because her blood is all over the ground, and Angel dropped her so I assume he was finished with her. So why do the alpha male posturing over a dead body you can’t use anymore?
Buffy finds Giles sleeping in his car in the woods, which is super safe when there’s a rampaging werewolf. They hear about Theresa’s death on the car radio–what the fuck, how did I miss that for years?–and Giles promises they’ll find the werewolf. They have a whole night still.
Meanwhile, after sun-up, the werewolf shifts back into human form with all the small screen magic the 1990’s can provide. It’s Oz, who wakes up naked in the woods, and has the most chill reaction to being a werewolf anyone has ever had:
Back at home, Oz gives his aunt a call:
Oz: “Aunt Maureen, hey, it’s me. Um, what? Oh, it’s, uh, actually it’s healing okay. That’s pretty much the reason I called. Um, I wanted to ask you something. Is Jordy a werewolf? …uh-huh. …And how long has that been going on?”
So Oz has been turned into a werewolf in the most ridiculous way possible: he was bitten by a child werewolf.
At school the next day, Oz is visibly freaked out. Which is odd for him. He goes to the library, where he hears Buffy lamenting the fact that she didn’t kill the werewolf when she had the chance. Oz asks if anyone was bitten or scratched, and they’re like, nah, oh but BTdubs, Theresa’s dead. Buffy talks a tough game about how she’s going to murder the werewolf, but Oz hadn’t realized there’s still one more night to go.
Xander tells them that he’s the expert on werewolves, because he remembers exactly what it was like to be a hyena. And Buffy reminds him that he said he didn’t remember, which Xander laughs off. So…ha ha, remember when I said I didn’t remember trying to rape you, and I’ve been living my life in a blissful cone of not feeling guilty at all, while you have to remember every single time you see me that I, you know, tried to rape you? And of course it’s played for laughs, because there’s nothing funnier than a Nice Guy getting away with his shitty behavior without any consequences (#6, #5).
But as Xander rambles on about how he understands the predator instinct, he remembers that Larry had a dog bite, and he’s also a huge dick, so he must be the werewolf. Buffy remembers how he threatened Theresa–seriously? How was she this big a part of this episode and I couldn’t remember her?–and assumes that links him the werewolf murder. Oz half-heartedly tries to defend Larry, but he can’t do much without outing himself as the werewolf, especially after Willow points out that Oz knew Theresa, too. When Willow suggests Oz can hang out and do research with her, he turns her down, and she’s perplexed and a little hurt looking.
In the men’s room, Xander confronts Larry. He tells him he knows his secret, and Larry is about to bash him good when Xander tells him that he knows what Larry is going through and he wants to help.
Larry: “Look, if this gets out, it’s over for me. I mean, forget about playing football. They’ll run me out of this town. I mean, come on, how are people going to look at me after they find out I’m gay?”
The punchline of this scene is that now Larry thinks Xander is gay, and of course Xander isn’t gay and isn’t it funny how uncomfortable Xander is with the idea of someone thinking he’s gay ha ha, #23: Despite praise for its positive portrayal of non-straight sexualities, some of this shit is homophobic as fuck.
Back at the library, Willow is still trying to find out who the werewolf is, and the only suspect she can come up with is a student with a history of violent incidents and disciplinary actions, but they both already know that Buffy isn’t a werewolf, so they have to keep looking. Willow is trying to understand why Oz acted so distant from her. The thing is, they know that Oz knew a student who died. Why isn’t that reason enough for him to want to be alone for a little while?
Willow goes off to help Cordelia with her homework, and Xander notes how odd it is that the two of them are hanging out together and how scary he finds it. Shut up, Xander. Buffy ask him if he found out if Larry is the werewolf, but Xander is super defensive, because again, the joke is that Xander is uncomfortable with homosexuality.
I read somewhere once that Joss wasn’t sure if Xander or Willow would come out as gay during the show’s run. I contend that neither of them should have, nor should Buffy have been described as a lesbian in the comics. They should have come out as bisexual. But god forbid we upset the homosexual/heterosexual binary when we can instead ignore canon relationships in which characters desired sexual relations with members of a different gender.
Anyway, since I read about that, I wondered if this wasn’t supposed to be foreshadowing, and suddenly, ha ha, Xander is boning Spike in season four (you know that would have been awesome). Xander does eventually seem to grow out of his “ew, boys!” phase in that season, but right now it’s getting on my last nerve, because “Guy who acts like he loves girls and is super tough but is actually gay” was played for so much comedic effect in the 90’s that my jaw aches from clenching. (23)
Anyway. Buffy is blaming herself for letting Theresa get killed, then she realizes that the news stories never said she was mauled. Sure enough, when Buffy and Xander visit Theresa at the funeral home, she’s a vampire. She tells Buffy:
Theresa: “Angel sends his love.”
and Xander kills Theresa in the scene from the opening credits. He comforts Buffy, reminding her that Angel isn’t the same person she knew, and they have a charged moment where it seems like they’re going to kiss, but they don’t.
It’s after dark now, and hunter douche is in his van, making silver bullets. Ah, remember those simple days, when people were just using vans for nefarious purposes related to violence, and not to make meth? The moon is coming up, and Oz is at home trying on some shackles. Which, it seems like he should have figured out how they work before this late. Willow pounds on the door and barges in when he opens it. She’s mad, and she’s going to get it all out, until she sees Oz’s chains and shackles on the dining room table, and learns the horrifying truth:
Willow runs away, while the hunter comes after Oz. In the library, Giles is just casually putting together a fucking huge rifle:
Like, he’s totally confident, and he’s doing it really fast. And obviously this is a skill he must have learned at Watcher school, but this is another case of Giles being able to do some weird, random thing, and nobody comments on it. Buffy comes up and instead of being like, “Holy shit, how are you so good at assembling and handling serious fucking rifles?” she’s like, “There was a vampire,” instead.
Back at the chase scene, Willow falls and is trapped between WereOz and a log. But WereOz doesn’t attack her. He waves his rubbery snout in the air, then runs off.
And now, a magic trick!
As they prepare to hunt, Giles has taken off his glasses.
Willow runs in and tells them that Oz is the werewolf, and when the camera angle changes, his glasses are suddenly back on:
Giles tries to roll out, and Willow grabs him and spins him around. Apparently she grabs him so hard that his glasses come off, because when the camera angle changes, no glasses:
Willow is afraid that Giles is going to use that huge gun to kill Oz, but he assures her it’s just a tranquilizer. Actually, he says it’s enough tranquilizer to put out a small elephant, which shouldn’t be reassuring, considering the fact that Oz isn’t an elephant and too much tranquilizer has this nasty side effect of causing death.
Meanwhile, in the woods, hunter douche is so worried about spitting cliches, he delays his shot until Buffy kicks him aside. Buffy and the WereOz fight, and knock over Giles and Willow. Willow manages to grab the gun and shoot Oz, and hunter douche makes a comment about nobody in town being man enough to kill monsters. Then Buffy bends the barrel of the hunter’s gun because strength = man. (#6)
Willow asks if Oz is going to be okay, and Giles is like, he’ll be a little sore in the morning, and I think, gosh, what does he mean by that? Does he mean Oz is going to be sore because he was shot with a tranquilizer dart out of a high-powered rifle? Or because he got beat up by the Slayer? Or because Giles has been tranquilized before and knows the after-effects? It could reasonably be any of those, and I’m perplexed.
At school the next day, Xander is asking Buffy how he should react when he sees “him” again, knowing what he knows about him. Turns out, Xander is talking about Larry, not Oz. Because, you know. How do you possibly talk to a gay person? And of course, Larry comes down the stairs and assists a female student whose books have been cruelly smacked to the floor by another dude. Because for some reason, the media seems to have this obsession (and it was certainly worse in the 90’s) with making it seem like gay men are, by virtue of their homosexuality, incapable of misogyny and feel a strong kinship with and protectiveness for women. I’m not saying all gay men are awful to women, but I find that when it comes to cis men treating women like human garbage, the straight dudes aren’t the only ones throwing their hats into the ring.
Anyway, Larry comes over and offers Xander his heart-felt thanks for helping him come to terms with his sexuality in a two minute conversation (I mean, he doesn’t say that, it’s just what the scene is) and the show actually makes a pretty stunning choice here: Xander doesn’t out Larry. Buffy asks why he and Larry are acting so weird, and Xander could have easily said, “Because when I thought Larry was a werewolf, he was actually just gay, thank god.” But he doesn’t. He just gives her a nervous, jabbering response that might have put the pieces together for her if they weren’t more concerned about the fact that Oz is a werewolf. I think Xander might out Larry in a later episode, but I can’t remember and I’m leaning toward “he does not.” Let’s marvel that in the 90’s, this show knew the importance of not outing someone’s sexuality on their behalf. So, that’s good, but overall the Larry-is-gay story arc gets a #23.
Xander’s brief moment of sensitivity is erased when he suggests that of course Willow and Oz don’t have a future, because she’s destined to become werewolf chow or something. But Buffy shoots him down and tells him it’s not up to him what Willow chooses to do. We cut to Willow meeting Oz in in the courtyard, where she apologizes for shooting him, and he apologizes for almost eating her. He’s apparently practiced getting tied up by Giles in preparation for the next full moon (and that remark launched what I feel is the stupidest, most unfounded ship in the entire fandom, no apologies). Oz feels like he should stay away from Willow, so he doesn’t hurt her, but Willow isn’t having it:
Willow: “Well, I like you. You’re nice, and you’re funny, and you don’t smoke. Yeah, okay, werewolf. But that’s not all the time. I mean, three days out of the month, I’m not much fun to be around, either.”
I’m so tempted to flag that as anti-feminist, because equating menstruation with becoming a rampaging violence machine every month is one of those bad jokes about how crazy and irrational women get when they have their period, but it’s a girl character self-referencing to make someone feel better, so I’m on the fence.
Willow gives Oz a kiss, and as she leaves, he watches her go and utters what I consider to be, if not the single most clunky line of the show, at least in the top three:
Oz: “A werewolf in love.”
Even Seth Green can’t pull it off, and it’s just the most bizarre and WTF? worthy line, like the writer didn’t know how to end the episode, so they just had Oz say some random thing. Like, was this the working title of the episode or something? I don’t get it. Seth Green is such a good actor, he could have conveyed that line without saying the badly written words.
So, here’s a thing I find comforting about this episode, even though I’ve never connected Theresa the attacked and vampirized student with Theresa in gym class, even though it is explicitly laid out for the viewer: the writers could have made Theresa Oz’s victim. They could have given him so much man pain, and a darker depth to his character. But they didn’t. They let the character go on from this episode without a body count, without killing someone he cared about. In fact, I don’t remember anyone Oz ever kills in werewolf form who wasn’t evil.
Overall, this is one of my favorite episodes. Werewolf Oz becomes such an integral part of the season and season three, so I’m glad he’s finally shown up.