BIG DAMN JENNY MET A BUFFY CAST MEMBER ANNOUNCEMENT OF GREAT AND TERRIBLE IMPORTANCE!
This is so exciting, guys. SO exciting. For the first time ever, I met a Buffy The Vampire Slayer cast member. I ALMOST met K Todd Freeman (Mr. Trick) once, but fate was not on my side that night and I ended up standing outside the stage door of Wicked in Chicago clutching my season three DVDs for nothing. So when I found out that Amber Benson was going to be at The Novel Experience Event in Las Vegas, I was so excited. And also afraid that I would fangirl out and make her run away.
Guys, if you get a chance to meet Amber Benson, meet Amber Benson. She is a wonderful person who is genuinely grateful for fans of the show (the selfie above? Was her idea. After I told her I do a Buffy recap on my blog, she said, “We should take a selfie together. Do you want to?”). I was worried she might think I was being weird because she wast there to promote her books and I was bringing up the show. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. She loves the show as much as the fans do (she called it “like crack,” which I think is an apt description except I had a roommate who smoked crack and watching Buffy smells much better), and best of all, loves writing fiction.
I told her about my daughter, Wednesday, and how much she loves the show, but how, at six-years-old, she’s concerned that “Tara” might actually be dead in real life. Amber agreed to take the following picture to prove to Wednesday that “Tara” is not, in fact, dead in real life:
And autographed a book for her, writing, “To Wednesday: I promise that I am not dead on Buffy! Just sleeping! [heart] Amber.”
Amber’s latest book, The Witches of Echo Park, is available now (it’s available at all retailers, but here’s the Amazon link), and I highly encourage you to check it out. Her writing is just as fabulous as her acting and her general in-person awesomeness.
Okay, so, onto the recap for real, after the “read more” link!
In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will stealthily hide her “Giles Fangirl” bag from Amber Benson, then later admit to doing exactly that. 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.
This is one of my favorite episodes of Buffy. As in, one of my comfort food episodes, which I will go back to time and again to watch when I’m maybe not feeling my best. And it’s also a great moment of character development for Xander. As in, he actually learns something about his bad behavior toward women (though the lasting effect of this lesson is somewhat dubious). Cordelia also learns a lesson, and this one sticks; it’s a wonderful part of her flawless growth into the kind-hearted, independent woman she eventually becomes before the writers of Angel throw her away completely.
The opening features Xander and Buffy in a graveyard. Xander has bought a heart-shaped necklace for Cordelia as a Valentine present, and he’s asking Buffy’s opinion on it. Buffy responds by asking if Cordelia actually has a heart, and Xander points out that, you know, maybe Buffy and the gang need to stop making fun of him for dating Cordelia. Buffy especially, since she knows that she’s the only other girl Xander is interested in. Buffy tells Xander that Cordelia will love the present, and Xander opines that dating would be easier if it were like slaying. Cue the vampire fight scene. Buffy dusts the vamp and tells Xander that slaying is harder than dating, but he points out she’s not dating Cordelia, ha ha ha.
After the credits, Cordelia arrives at school and doesn’t realize she’s getting the freeze out from her clique when they won’t slow down to let her catch up. Finally she does, and they are nasty to her because this Xander thing? Has gone on way too far for them:
Harmony: “When are you two gonna start wearing cute little matching outfits? ‘Cause I’m planning to vomit. Let’s go.”
Oh, Harmony. Someday you will learn, and fulfill the promise of #10. But today is not that day.
Cut to a classroom, where a very strict teacher is demanding the students hand in their papers. As they leave, Willow and Buffy stop to speak to Amy, the girl whose mother forcibly body-switched with her in the first season.
Here’s an amazing thing I never noticed before (because I think we weren’t supposed to notice, because it wasn’t meant to be blatantly obvious and that’s what makes it such a skillful callback): the last episode begins with Oz looking at the trophy Amy’s mom is trapped in, and the audience goes, “Ah ha ha, how clever, I remember that from last season.” This episode pops up next, in which Amy plays a significant role. The set up for Amy’s appearance began at the start of the episode prior to her appearance.
Anyway, if you’re a Buffy fan, you know that if Amy shows up anywhere in an episode, bad magical shit is about to go down.
Amy asks Buffy and Willow if they’re going to the Valentine’s dance at the Bronze, which to be honest, I still can’t figure out why so many dances/school-centered events are held at the Bronze. It’s like the Max at Bayside. Willow is psyched to go because she’s loving telling people that her boyfriend is in the band, but Buffy isn’t into it:
Buffy: “Oh, Valentine’s day is just a cheap gimmick to sell cards and chocolate.”
Amy: “Bad breakup, huh?”
Or Valentine’s day is just a cheap gimmick to sell cards and chocolate, but hey. Whatever. This isn’t a comment on the show, just the cultural stereotype of “you hate Valentine’s day? I guess it’s because nobody loves you.”
Amy and Xander are the last to leave class, so Xander sees what happens when Amy doesn’t hand anything to the teacher, but gives her this look instead:
What happens is, a magic noise happens and the teacher takes an imaginary paper from Amy.
Xander tells Buffy and Willow that he saw Amy doing magic, and Buffy’s reaction is basically, hey, that didn’t go so well for her mom, maybe she shouldn’t be doing that. But they’re interrupted by the arrival of Giles, who is in turn interrupted by the sight of Ms. Calendar. They share a longing glance and acknowledge each others’ presence while Buffy stands awkwardly in the middle like the kid who knows her parents are divorcing because of her.
Oh, snap. Buffy, this has happened to you twice.
Jenny is like, hey, can I talk to you, and Giles is like, no, I’m too busy, and sad music plays while they look at each other like this:
Look at Xander and Willow. You can hear what they’re thinking. “Yeah, that’s what you get for screwing over our friend!” and “Gosh, I hope these two can make up,” respectively.
In the library, Buffy asks Giles if he’s okay, and he tells her that he is when he clearly is not. He’s probably just not wanting to hang his issues on her, when she’s about to get a whole bunch more of her own:
Giles: “Since Angel, um, uh… turned… I’ve been reading up on his earlier activities–feeding patterns and the like.”
Giles: “Around Valentine’s day, he’s rather prone to, well, um, brutal displays of…he would think of it as affection, I suppose.”
Oh, Giles. You have no idea yet.
Giles tells Buffy to stay off the street, just in case.
At the factory, Spike gives Drusilla a beautiful gold necklace, which she adores. Then Angelus comes in with a still-warm human heart and totally steals Spike’s gift-thunder.
Angelus: “I knew you’d like it. I found it in a quaint little shopgirl.”
God I love that line. I wish they would give Angel lines like that all time, even when he wasn’t evil. Angelus is way more funny than plain old Angel.
Angelus being Angelus, he mocks Spike’s gift, then helps Drusilla put on the necklace and makes fun of Spike for being in a wheelchair. Because Angel is a dick like that.
At the Bronze, Oz’s 1990’s alternative rock band is playing, and Willow is utterly smitten with the idea of being his groupie. Cordelia arrives and her crew gives her the cut direct. Like, literally, “the cut direct.” Back at Buffy’s house, she and her mom are watching television when there’s a knock at the door. Buffy answers and no one is there. When she comes back, her mom isn’t on the couch, and doesn’t answer when Buffy calls for her. Walking through the house, Buffy is massively weirded out, and gets a jump scare when her mom comes in through the back door, bearing a big scary black box with a bow on it. Buffy opens it, and it’s a beautiful bouquet of roses:
EDIT: In the comments, Jackie points out that I missed a HUGE #3 here. Buffy looks totally wigged out, and while the scene ends and we don’t know how Joyce reacted during the break, we do know that in the very next episode, Buffy tells Joyce that she was seeing a guy and he turned out to be different than she expected him to be. Then Angel shows up at the house all obsessed with her, and what does Joyce do? BLAMES BUFFY FOR HAVING SEX WITH HIM. So, this incident with the flowers is a big #3, because even though this guy has threatened her daughter, she goes on for the rest of episode not seeming to care.
At the Bronze, Xander sees Cordelia sitting all alone. She’s surprised to see Xander dressed so well, and he tells her he let Buffy pick his clothes, which kind of cements their impending breakup. But Xander doesn’t see it coming. He pours out his feelings to her:
Xander: “I’ve been thinking a lot about us lately. The why and the wherefore. You know, once, twice, a kissy here, a kissy there. And you can chalk it all up to hormones. And maybe that’s all we have here–tawdry, teen lust. But maybe not. Maybe something in you sees something special inside me. And vice versa. I mean, I think I do. See something.”
and he gives her the necklace, which she loves. Then she tells him she wants to break up, and blows his heart to smithereens:
Cordelia: “Who are we kidding? Even if parts of us do see specialness… we don’t fit.”
Once upon a time, I broke up with a guy on Valentine’s Day. It went about as well as this episode, minus the love spell.
The next day at school, people are making fun of Xander for getting dumped on Valentine’s day. He sees Buffy in the hallway, but she’s off on an Angel emergency. Harmony is in the hallway, acting like a Mean Girl as usual, and that’s the final straw for Xander. He sees Amy and pulls her aside, and tells her that he saw what she did with the teacher, so he knows she’s a witch.
Xander: “Blackmail is such an ugly word.”
Amy: “I didn’t say blackmail.”
Xander: “Yeah, but I’m about to blackmail you, so I thought I’d bring it up.”
Xander wants Amy to cast a love spell on Cordelia, so he can reject her and make her feel as bad as he does. Amy explains that it’s hard magic and the intent has to be pure, and he reminds her that he could always just tell on her for using magic to cheat. Which seems, I don’t know. I don’t see how it could possibly work, considering how deeply in denial the entire town is about living on top of a Hellmouth.
In the library, Buffy slaps her “soon” note down on the book Giles is reading and demands to know what Angel plans to do to her. She tells Giles not to hold out on her in the vital, Angel related information department.
Xander asks Cordelia for the necklace back. At first, she doesn’t want to return it, saying it was a gift, but Xander says he doesn’t want it to go into her collection of stuff guys have given her. She relents and tells him its in her locker, but when she opens the door, she sneaks the necklace out from beneath the collar of her shirt.
At school that night, Xander sits shirtless in a big woman symbol painted on the floor of the science lab while Amy does the love spell. Cut to the next morning, when Xander walks up to Cordelia and her friends and waits for some big reaction. But Cordelia is definitely not as in love with him as he expected her to be; she accuses him of stalking her, and he takes off.
In the library, god help me, god help us all, Giles has his sleeves rolled up while he’s reading:
Unfortunately, what he’s reading is a record of all the creepy shit Angel has done over the years:
Giles: “Look, here’s another. Here. Um, ‘Valentine’s Day.’ Yes, uh… Angel nailed a puppy to the–”
Buffy: “Skip it.”
Buffy: “I don’t wanna know. I don’t have a puppy. Skip it.”
Giles: “Right you are. I’ll get another batch.”
Like, that’s how bad Angel was. Records of his puppy-nailing misdeeds come in batches.
Xander comes in and suggests they use him as bait, not to catch Angel, just to fish. Buffy heard about Xander’s breakup with Cordelia, and it’s like, fuck, I hope you heard about it, because it happened two days ago and he’s one of your best friends, so why haven’t you talked to him yet if you heard he got dumped? I get this whole Angelus thing is taking up a lot of time, but damn.
Buffy suggests she and Xander hang out and commiserate over their breakups, so they can comfort each other:
Xander: “Would lap dancing enter into that scenario at all? ‘Cause I find that very comforting.”
Ugh, Xander. #5, because one of your best female friends is saying she wants to hang out to make you feel better about getting dumped, and your response is to immediately interpret the offer as sexual. But then Buffy is like:
Buffy: “Play your cards right…”
and gets super close to him in a real, real suggestive way. Xander is way confused. Buffy tells him that when she heard that he and Cordy broke up, she was surprised at how relieved she was, and that she’d never really seen him before. Then Amy walks in and interrupts, saying she needs to talk to him.
In the hall, Amy tells Xander that the spell didn’t work out right, and suggests they try again. But Xander thinks it’s no big deal, because now Buffy actually wants him, so he doesn’t care so much about getting Cordelia back. Amy says they don’t have to do any spells, they can just hang out, and Xander is even more confused, but he understands what’s going on when Amy repeats the exact same words Buffy just said about finally seeing him. And while dawning horror crashes over him that Buffy isn’t really in love with him, yet another girl comes up and asks if he can help her with homework. Amy reacts with obvious jealousy, and Xander says he has to go.
And he really goes. He runs home and locks himself in his bedroom, where he finds Willow in his bed, wearing one of his shirts. He tries to explain to her that he cast a spell and it backfired, but she’s not having it. She straight up wants him to be her first, and she doesn’t really care about Oz anymore. Xander peels Willow off of him and runs out.
At school, Cordy finds that her friends are all mad at her again. Except now, they’re mad at her because she hurt Xander. And she is completely confused.
Xander returns to school to the strains of “Got The Love” by Average White Band, who, if you are unfamiliar with seventies era pop-funk, are 100% honest in their marketing with that name. All of the girls, and even some guys, start following Xander like hungry lions stalking a sick zebra. Other guys are pissed off, because I’m assuming more than one dude has gotten dumped today because of this love spell.
Xander goes to Giles for help. He confesses that he messed with a love spell, and that every woman in Sunnydale is after him. Before Giles can respond, Jenny Calendar comes into the library to confront Giles about the animosity that’s complicating the longing between them. Except the whole time she’s doing it, she’s stroking Xander’s arm:
Giles separates them. He’s completely enraged. As Jenny continues to try to seduce Xander with her body language, Giles lectures him about how dangerous love spells are. He tells him to stay in the library while he leaves to try and fix it. He wisely takes Jenny with him.
Xander tries to barricade the door with the card catalogue, but he’s an idiot because they open outward, like all exits in public buildings. Buffy is wearing a trench coat and nothing else. Well, the tv version of “nothing else” that includes nylons to even out her skin tone. She offers herself to him sexually, and Xander says:
Xander: “It’s not that I don’t want to. Sometimes the remote, impossible possibility that you might like me was all that sustained me. But not now. Not like this. This isn’t real to you. You’re only here because of a spell. I mean, if I thought you had one clue what it would mean to me… but you don’t. So I can’t.”
Is that… is that character growth? From Xander? The guy who watched Buffy change via her jewelry box mirror in season one? The guy who tried to hyena rape her and later just let her stew with the memory of it without apologizing or trying to comfort her for his actions? Refusing sex with the one girl he truly wants?
Of course, Buffy accepts this answer and apologizes, because the love spell makes her value and respect him. Ha ha! That’s not what happens at all. She goes full Glenn Close, “I’m not going to be ignored, Dan,” on him. While she’s shouting at him about his rejection, Amy comes in to assert her claim over him. The girls fight. I mean, fight. Buffy punches Amy in the face, and Amy seemingly vaporizes Buffy with magic. But it’s okay, Amy just turned Buffy into a freaking adorable rat. Giles and Jenny return, and Rat!Buffy scampers off, leaving Jenny to confront Amy about which one of them is going to get Giles. Amy is all set to turn Jenny into a rat, too, but Xander stops her.
Shit is falling apart rapidly.
Cordelia is confronted at her locker by Harmony, who delivers the single most Dynasty face slapped ever filmed for a show that wasn’t Dynasty. All of Cordy’s girls are furious with her for breaking Xander’s heart, and she cannot figure out what the hell is going on.
Neither can Oz, because back at the library, Giles and Xander are just about to capture Rat!Buffy (or as Giles calls her, “the Buffy rat”) when Oz bursts in and punches Xander in the face:
Oz: “I was on the phone all night, listening to Willow cry about you. Now, I don’t know exactly what happened, but I was left with the very strong urge to hit you.”
I always have conflicting feelings about this line, because as it stands it could have been more than just, har har, Oz is a calm, pacifist kind of guy, but all dudes stick up for their ladies thing or whatever. Like, he’s a werewolf. I kind of would have liked to see more instances like this where he’s driven to stereotypical alphole behavior because he’s a werewolf, and he’s totally confused about that and finds himself acting on impulses that he finds odd but that many men feel are totally appropriate. But instead we just kind of get this, aw, he cares about his woman enough to commit physical violence thing.
On the other hand, he’s driven to commit physical violence against Xander because Xander hurt Willow. He says he was on the phone with her all night and she was crying, not, hey, I found out that my girl likes you. He doesn’t say, you stole her, he’s basically like, you made Willow cry, I don’t like that she’s crying, I don’t know why this is happening, so it makes me want to punch you. And he’s examining it very clinically after he’s done it, and I find that funny and perhaps a nod to the fact that yeah, it’s neanderthal behavior to punch somebody.
I don’t know. One of those two things.
Rat!Buffy gets away, and Giles is fucking furious. Like, almost-threatens-to-kill-Xander-but-stops-himself-mid-sentence furious. He asks Oz to look for Rat!Buffy, and sends Xander home in the hopes that he won’t cause any more trouble.
In the hallway, Xander hears Cordelia screaming as a mob of girls seem to be trying to literally pull her apart. He rushes in to the rescue, and they’re pursued by the women, who are desperate to touch Xander.
Giles figures out that Amy messed up the spell, accidentally making Cordelia the only person who isn’t affected. Rather than help him, Jenny and Amy argue over which one of them Xander truly loves, until Giles explodes about how it’s not actual love, it’s obsession, etc., and Jenny just wanders off.
Xander and Cordelia escape the school and think they’re in the clear, when they see:
Hey, it’s your old friend Willow!
Willow: “I should have known I’d find you with her!”
Xander: “Will… Come on, you don’t want to hurt me.”
Willow: “Oh no? You don’t know how hard this is for me. I love you so much. I’d rather see you dead than with that bitch!”
Then everything turns into the jungle madness scene in Mean Girls, but people are going to get more than their feelings hurt.
As Xander and Cordy flee, Rat!Buffy has found her way down to the boiler room. I’m going to assume she’s just following her ratty nose down to the Hellmouth, to slay some vampire rats. Oz is right behind her with the flashlight. I wonder why he didn’t just use his werewolf smells?
Now, here is something I am just. UUUUUGH fuck whoever made this call guys, okay? Fuck them, because they were huffing glue when they wrote this. Rat!Buffy is crawling around in the school basement. What kind of dangers do you think she would run into down there? A trap, right? Some poison? Maybe she would chew on some wires and die? NOPE! THERE’S A FREAKING CAT DOWN THERE. I’m not joking. I mean, it’s a black cat, so maybe it’s meant to be spooky Hellmouth black cat or something? But why would there be a cat in a high school basement?
Come to think of it, a cat gets into the Sommers family basement in the second episode of season three. Is it that common for cats to become cellar intruders? Have I just never had my run in yet? Or is this a Sunnydale thing?
Xander and Cordelia have apparently run so long that the sun has set:
and they arrive at Buffy’s house. It’s never explained why they’re going there, but I guess maybe it’s the safest option considering Willow knows where Xander lives, and Xander knows Buffy is a rat. But guess who is at Buffy’s house?
At this point, Xander is like, whatever, Joyce, rub all up on me. Not because he’s into it, but because he’s just resigned to it. Cordelia comes in and pushes Joyce through the back door and locks her out, but Joyce punches through the glass to get back in. Xander and Cordy run up to Buffy’s room and lock themselves in, but then Angel swoops in through the open window and grabs Xander, pulling him through.
In the school basement, Rat!Buffy sniffs around a much more logically dangerous mouse trap.
Back on the roof of Casa del Sommers, Angel is prepared to do something awful to Xander to enact his Valentine’s threat. But when they tumble onto the lawn below, Drusilla attacks Angel, throwing him into a tree. She snarls and defends Xander:
Drusilla: “If you harm one hair on this boy’s head…”
Angelus: “You’ve gotta be kidding. Him?”
And that’s it. Angel just leaves, because Dru is so unpredictable and he just doesn’t have time for this bullshit. Like, he doesn’t even know there’s a love spell going on, he’s just reacting to what he believes is garden variety Dru. He doesn’t have the patience for it and it’s not worth it, even to exact revenge upon his mortal enemy. It is possibly one of the top ten funniest moments on Buffy.
Drusilla is about to turn Xander into a vampire, when all the other women in town roll onto Buffy’s lawn. I guess they should thought of the fact that Willow, as mob ringleader, would probably check at Buffy’s house next.
Xander and Cordelia have only one option, and that’s to run back into the house. But obsessed women are pouring through the back door, except for Dru, who can’t come in because of the vampire rules. Joyce confronts Xander with a huge kitchen knife, and Xander and Cordelia run into the basement. Which marks the second time now that they’ve run for safety in that particular basement.
Back in the other basement, Rat!Buffy is getting closer to the trap, and in the science room, Giles and Amy are working on reversing the spell.
Xander and Cordelia board up the basement door, and Xander tells Cordelia the whole situation is her fault, because she broke up with him. Eh…not really, dude. Cordelia similarly calls bullshit, telling him that he’s the one who tried to get girls to like him through magic. When he tells her she as the intended target of the spell, she’s touched, but then they’re both almost touched by a knife stabbing through the door.
Rat!Buffy is really going after that fully suspenseful cheese now, as Amy and Giles do the spell to reverse her rat-ness. It works, and Buffy emerges from her former ratness naked and confused. The mob of women breaks down the basement door and surround them, just as Giles and Amy break the spell. Everyone is super confused as to where they are or what they’re doing, but obviously this won’t be an issue in like, two hours. Because everyone will forget it happened, just like the last time they all woke from a trance in a strange place all together.
Sunnydale is a fucking terrifying place.
Oz finds Buffy, and proves to be the number one person you would ever pick to find you naked somewhere:
Buffy: “I seem to be having a slight case of nudity here.”
Oz: “But you’re not a rat. So call it an upside.”
Xander and Cordelia try to convince everyone that nothing weird is going on by saying it was all part of a scavenger hunt, a tactic Buffy criticizes the next day at school. Everybody seems super okay with the routine of Sunnydale residents just sort of wiping their memories of every bizarre things that happens to them, which is troubling. But hey, speaking of memory…
Xander: “You remember, huh?”
Buffy: “Oh yeah. I remember coming onto you. I remember begging you to undress me. And then a sudden need for cheese. I also remember that you didn’t.”
So, I don’t know if anybody at Sunnydale remembers this, but Xander was once possessed by a hyena demon and tried to rape Buffy. And when that happened, Giles knew full well that Xander remembered doing that, but they both were fine with allowing Buffy to think Xander did not remember, as it would have been uncomfortable for him to acknowledge and apologize for it. But now Buffy can remember the way she acted while under the spell, and it’s almost like she’s apologizing to Xander. If not apologizing, at least giving him way too much credit for not raping her while she was under the effects of the spell. Xander doesn’t have to show remorse for his actions while ensorcelled, but Buffy does? #6.
Cordelia is walking with Harmony and their friends, listening to her talk about a guy who a cool car who has put her down as a maybe for a date. As Harmony is talking, she runs into Xander, and makes a crack about the way he’s dressed. He walks away dejected, and Cordy finally snaps, telling Harmony to shut up, and that she’ll date whoever she wants to date. Then she and Xander walk off hand-in-hand.
This was a really good, really light episode, which we desperately need because… well…
The next recap is “Passion.”