Janes (a True Stan) and Nerdy Spice (a New Fan) are watching all of Buffy together and comparing notes. Warning: May contain spoilers for later episodes.
Season 1, Episode 10 “Nightmares”
One of my favorite MOW episodes! We start with a random classmate named Wendell, never seen before and never to be seen again, who opens his book in class, only to find a bunch of giant tarantulas crawling out of the pages. The Scooby Gang gets on the case, and finds out that Wendell has a recurring nightmare about spiders attacking him. A bunch of other weird, nightmarish things start happening: Giles gets lost in the stacks of the library, time starts speeding up during Buffy’s history test, and then Xander spontaneously finds himself in his underwear in class. Classic.
Considerably sadder: Buffy’s mostly-absent dad comes to pick her up for the weekend, and tells her that she’s a disappointment and that it’s her fault her parents broke up. Yikes.
Also, another classmate named Laura gets beaten up by an ugly demon-man in the school basement. But in a confusing twist, it’s not related to any nightmares she had. Instead, it’s a manifestation of the original nightmare that started the whole thing: a little boy named Billy was beaten after a baseball game. Now he’s in a coma, and his consciousness is stuck in a nightmare world, but he “somehow crossed over” and brought all of the rules of the nightmare world with him.
(There’s also a hilarious scene where Willow asks, for the audience, “But how could that possibly happen?” and Giles, basically shrugs and says, “Things like that are easier when you live on a Hellmouth.” It’s like the fantasy equivalent of reversing the polarity.)
Then, the nightmares start to get higher-stakes. A killer clown attacks Xander, the Master buries Buffy alive, and then she comes back to life, but as a vampire (with a pretty scary vamp face!). They find Billy’s projection self, and help him face his fears and kill the demon-man. When he wakes up, he points the finger at his Little League Coach, and everything goes back to normal.
Notes from a New Fan:
- OK, so the one thing that kind of bugs me about this show is that we have to spend at least a third of the episode knowing exactly what the baddie of the week is before Buffy does. There have been a few where we didn’t or there was a good twist–like the killer cheerleader mom–and OK, I didn’t entirely expect the bonkers praying mantis lady–but a lot of the times it feels like we’re kind of waiting around for Buffy and the gang to catch up with what has been telegraphed from the very first moment (or the episode title). I guess it’s not a detective show, but I kinda still want the mystery! On the other hand, maybe the dramatic irony is what makes it suspenseful? I’m not sure.
- Xander wasn’t listening in active listening class because the teacher was wearing a tight sweater. So, Xander just sexually harasses everyone then. Cool.
- Oh god I knew that those tarantulas from the credits were going to show up. Thank GOD that the entire episode didn’t revolve around them and it was just one guy’s nightmare come to life for a single scene. Like, if there had to be two hundred tarantulas in an episode, this was probably the least traumatizing way to do it.
- Cordelia’s nightmares of having bad hair and joining track are amusing. It’s surprising to me that she had a series regular credit this early on, though, because she really only gets a few lines of comic relief a lot of the time.
- I don’t have a complex about clowns normally but this clown is hella scary whoa.
- Does anyone else not believe Xander would have the guts to confront the clown all of a sudden like that? Of the things we know about Xander’s character, it doesn’t really seem to go. “Stares at women’s breasts constantly, loves to eat discarded chocolate bars he finds on the floor, but is wicked brave when confronted with nightmare clowns”… nope. Does not compute. [OMG I thought the same thing! Why is Xander, of all people, the only one who can face his fears?? –Janes]
- And seriously, let’s just say that again, this guy EATS DISCARDED CHOCOLATE BARS HE FINDS ON THE FLOOR. He is the actual grossest human being of all time.
- Willow’s ensemble is straight out of a Modcloth catalog and I love it. (Let’s not discuss her other ensemble in this episode, which is borderline yellowface and straight out of my nightmares.)
Notes from a True Stan:
- I always think of Nerdy Spice when the spiders come out of Wendell’s book. That would be her worst nightmare!
- In the supernatural-as-metaphor vein, I like how Buffy’s nightmares about the Master are directly juxtaposed with her anxiety over her father coming for the weekend (twice).
- The close-up of the “Smoking Kills” poster while Laura gets beaten is… a lot.
- They probably should have done some scrawny-Captain America CGI on Nicholas Brendon: he is way too buff for a teenage nerd.
- On rewatch, most of the nightmares are pretty silly. They’re either cliches–clowns, public nudity–or disappointingly literal gags–Giles, the librarian, can’t read anything, and Cordelia, the mean popular girl, suddenly has terrible hair and is forced to join the chess team.
- That said, the scene with Buffy’s father always makes me want to cry. SMG is so good, and the scene is so much sadder since we literally never hear of Buffy’s father coming for the weekend again.
- Why doesn’t Buffy’s dad remember anything that happened in the nightmare world? No one else forgot anything. Was that just a nightmare apparition of him, then?
Season 1, Episode 11 “Out of Sight, Out of Mind”
This is one of those episodes that deals quite literally with the theme Janes has mentioned, that being in high school is like being in hell.
First, people start getting attacked by invisible forces. Cordelia’s cute boyfriend gets bludgeoned with a baseball bat held by (apparently) no one, then Cordelia’s popular friend gets pushed down the stairs. Cordelia decides that this is all about her, but weirdly, this time she’s right!
The gang eventually figures out that the evil ghost is Marcie Ross, a band geek who was ignored by not only Cordelia and her friends, but Willow and even the teachers, until she literally became invisible: a metaphor rendered concrete. And now she’s out for revenge.
Buffy herself has been feeling ignored because Willow and Xander have a bunch of nerdy inside jokes about being geeks in middle school together, and she learns that Cordelia, too, feels alone: she just masks it by surrounding herself with people who want to partake of her social power. I really like Cordelia’s speech to Buffy on this topic. It really is hard to be popular without a certain amount of emotional intelligence, much as it pains this particular flute-playing geek to admit it. And learning that popular people don’t have it made was a lesson it tends to take the rest of us lower on the social ladder a long time to learn.
In the grand finale, Marcie locks Giles, Willow, and Xander in the basement with a leaky gas pipe, then kidnaps Cordelia from a closet where Buffy left her to change clothes. She gets both Cordelia and Buffy tied up and prepares to mutilate Cordelia’s face to render her unpopular. Ouch! (She has also written “LISTEN” in glitter on a black curtain in front of them; yeah, I don’t know.)
Meanwhile, Angel rescues Willow and Giles and (unfortunately) Xander. For her part, Buffy gets free and has the bright idea of throwing a blanket over Marcie so she can see where she is long enough to punch her lights out. Just as she’s triumphed in the fistfight, the FBI shows up and takes Marcie into custody so they can recruit her to some kind of secret band of invisible spies. I have a feeling this will never show up again, but how much would you watch that spinoff?
Notes from a New Fan:
- I feel for Buffy that she’s suddenly being judged for being popular, which popular people are not really used to. But she’s SO offended by Willow and Xander having one inside joke, like, come on! You don’t have to be part of EVERYTHING.
- Buffy tries to cover her desire to investigate Mitch’s attack by saying she wants to fetch his comb. Principal Snyder duhs, “I don’t think Mitch needs his comb right now. I think Mitch needs medical attention.” I like this new saucy principal.
- Xander says he would use the power of invisibility to “protect,” aka perve on, the girls’ locker room. I hope the invisible girl takes her baseball bat and bonks him in the crotch with it.
- Giles declaring the Buffy/Angel relationship “poetic” is reminiscent of every TV show that has ever tried to push a OTP too early. You have to tell the viewers that the love story is great, and they often still end up going for the Spike (or, you know, the Pacey, or the Luka).
- CLEA DUVALL! HI CLEA DUVALL! YOU ARE MY TV GIRLFRIEND!!!
- Is the reference to playing flute in band supposed to be an American Pie reference? (No idea which came out first as I was equally uninterested in both at the time.)
- Again, I feel like bad guys in this show would have a lot better luck if they didn’t stand around poised to kill all the time and just stabbed people. Like when Marcie Ross just stands behind Buffy holding a knife pointed at her neck for like thirty seconds!
- Giles says that quantum mechanics is the theory that the world is shaped by our perceptions and somehow this explains why ignoring someone makes them invisible. Yeah… um… sure, I’ll go with it.
- I like how Buffy tells Cordelia the closet “looks okay” to change in when the baddie they’re worried about is INVISIBLE.
- The “zoooop” music cue when the Scoobs realize they’re locked into the basement is hilarious!
- It’s so bad-ass when Buffy punches through the door to get in to Cordelia, and then does a pullup into the ceiling. Love it.
- It’s kind of cute that Marcie numbs Cordelia’s face before carving it up. Mutilation… but humanely! It’s very The Handmaid’s Tale (another show Clea DuVall is in).
- If Buffy has superstrength why can’t she just break the ropes that tied her? She just punched through a damn door!
- I feel fairly confident that Charisma Carpenter was cast in this role in large part due to her excellent shrieking abilities.
- The FBI kidnaps the invisible Marcie to become an FBI assassin. I … love it? I super hope this comes back. [Aw, I wrote that I wished it came back! It doesn’t, unfortunately 😦 –Janes]
Notes from a True Stan:
- Now I can’t hear the words “May Queen” without thinking of this:
- LOVE Willow’s little eyeroll when the teacher praises Cordelia’s “observations.”
- Principal Snyder: “There are no dead students here… this week.” Hee!
- Um, I just realized, after fifteen years of watching this show, that “Snyder” is a play on “snide.” I feel dumb.
- If Xander is supposed to be the comic relief, why are all of his jokes so bad? Last episode, he made a weird bestiality joke about spiders, this episode he made a terrible “vampire bat” pun. What is the point of him??
- OMG I loled at Principal Snyder’s terrified, “Don’t sue!” I don’t remember him being so funny!
- Xander, on the other hand, is making creepy jokes about using invisibility to spy on the girls’ locker room. Gross. Even Snyder is funnier than him!
- Why is Cordelia having her friends tailor her May Queen dress… in a random classroom… at night??
- If Angel telling Giles that he’s “not here to eat” was meant to be comforting, it was… misguided.
- I’m not a scientist, but Giles’ explanation of quantum mechanics–“a rudimentary concept that perceptions shape reality”–is hilarious.
- Why is every single student enthusiastically raising their hands in Marcie’s flashbacks?? I don’t believe for a second that Xander ever did the reading, let alone had something to say about it.
- The curtain is fine, I guess, but why didn’t they just spray-paint Marcie, like they did that traffic cone in season 6?
Season 1, Episode 12 “Prophecy Girl”
Something’s going on in Sunnydale. Which, yes, could apply to any episode, but it’s the season finale, so this time it’s really serious. Buffy kills three vampires in one night, all close to school grounds, and there’s an earthquake (in Southern California, but still, ominous). Most worryingly, Giles finds a prophecy that “the Master will rise, and the Slayer will die.” He doesn’t tell anyone at first, but teams up with Ms. Calendar to find out more about this prophecy, and the Anointed One, who is supposed to lead Buffy to her doom.
Meanwhile, Xander finally gets up the nerve to ask Buffy out, and it doesn’t go well. She tells him–very nicely, I might add–that she doesn’t feel the same way about him. Xander gets all pissy at her and says, “I guess a guy’s gotta be undead to make time with you,” because he is, in fact, the worst. (Note that Buffy didn’t bring up Angel at all–Xander just views women as things that are transferred from one man to another.) He leaves in a huff, and then asks Willow to the dance, taking for granted that she’ll say yes. She rejects him, even more flatly than Buffy, and says witheringly, “You should know better.” YES. LOVE.
Buffy happens to walk into the library as Giles tells Angel about the prophecy, which comes from some super-accurate prophecy book that Angel fetched for him. Buffy freaks out, understandably. She tells them she won’t face the Master, and that she “quits” being the Slayer.
She goes home, and Joyce, clueless as ever, thinks she’s upset about not having a date to Spring Fling. But she does do one thing right: she gives Buffy a beautiful (and iconic) white dress to wear to the dance. While Buffy is trying it on, she hears that Willow found the dead bodies of a bunch of classmates at school, who were killed by vampires. I mean, I was under the impression that this happened all the time, but this time it’s a really big deal. Buffy sees how traumatized Willow is, and is motivated to go back out there and fight the Master. Giles tries to stop her, so she punches him out. Hee.
She follows the Anointed One down into the Master’s caves, while Xander, after hearing where she’s gone, enlists Angel to help find her. She fights the Master, but he uses his mind control juju on her, sucks her blood, and leaves her to drown in a shallow pool. Her blood is super powerful, so he breaks out of the caves to open the Hellmouth, which it turns out is right under the library. A big squiggly demon–one of the Old Ones, which looks vaguely like a Cerberus with three Xenomorph heads–comes out of the library floor and tries to eat Giles, Willow, and Ms. Calendar.
Xander and Angel find Buffy a few minutes later, apparently dead. Xander performs CPR (because Angel “has no breath,” supposedly, although I don’t know how he talks then), and Buffy wakes up. All of a sudden, she’s a full-fledged bad-ass. She magically knows exactly where the apocalypse is going down, and walks leisurely towards the school. (Sure, the world is about to end, but she is wearing heels, after all.) She fights the Master, but this time, she distracts him from his mind control juju with snappy one-liners, and successfully drops him onto a jagged piece of wood. He turns to dust (except for his bones, because he’s a super vampire), and Buffy and her dress–which everyone loves–finally get to go to Spring Fling.
Notes from a New Fan
- I love that it’s a random Monday night and Buffy is just out kicking ass. So fun!
- I feel like Sarah Michelle Gellar is majorly channeling Alicia Silverstone in Clueless during this whole I-broke-a-nail routine. Not that I’m complaining–it’s very charming and funny.
- Xander says he doesn’t take rejection well. There’s a shocker.
- “I helped you cast that demon out of the internet, I think that merits some trust,” Miss Technopagan says to Giles. That might be my favorite line of the season (although it’s very hard to pick, especially among the internet-demon-related ones).
- Giles says “I wish to God I were”: hooray for correct use of the present contrary-to-fact subjunctive.
- OK, this scene where Buffy finds out she’s prophesied to die tomorrow is amazing, and SMG does a killer job, and I choked up. That is all.
- OK, not all. One more thing. I feel like Buffy is missing a PRIME opportunity to get a little comfort out of Angel, if you know what I mean.
- Damn, Mrs. Buffy! She stole Buffy’s dad from his date! Very saucy.
- “She’s so little,” says Miss Technopagan about Buffy. Hee.
- Hee! Buffy punched Giles. I loled.
- Haha, I also laughed when Xander accused Angel of looking at his neck.
- It’s great when Buffy wakes up and everything but Jesus, Xander, turn her over while she’s vomiting water, instead of just staring at her while she throws up on her back!
- This three-headed beast… isn’t Giles worried about hacking its head? I feel like that’s sort of an infamously bad idea with a three-headed beast.
- “I may be dead but I’m still pretty,” ugh. I dislike that line (and it’s so often quoted even I had heard it before, unlike “If the apocalypse comes, beep me,” which Janes complained about).
- Ummm… this episode ROCKED. Just all-around great.
Notes from a True Stan:
- I love everything about the teaser. It almost feels like a second stab at a pilot: Cordelia does the classic making-out-in-a-car-and-hearing-a-noise horror trope, Buffy looks all helpless but then takes out her stake in slow motion, smiles, and kills the vamp in regular motion. Then, during the earthquake, the Master chomps on the scenery and screams that his “time is at hand” or something like that, and then turns to the little Anointed One and says, “What do you think? 5.1?” That’s basically the show in a nutshell, more than anything from the pilot.
- We pretty much hate Xander here at Adversion, but to his credit, it’s pretty brave to go on with your long romantic speech when someone’s making this face at you:
- I actually like everything about this scene. Not Xander’s behavior, which is terrible, but the way it’s portrayed. Buffy is straightforward and mature in her answer, even when he gets all mad and comes dangerously close to slut-shaming her (“Make time”? What 16-year-old boy uses the phrase “make time”??) And best of all, the show acknowledges that he’s not entitled to Buffy just because he wants her, nor is he entitled to Willow as a consolation prize. He’s being a jerk, and even if the show is more sympathetic to him than me or Nerdy Spice, it clearly understands that.
- A cat gave birth to a litter of snakes?? That’s gruesome!
- SMG kills it in that scene where she yells at Giles and Angel. Her delivery of the last line–“I’m sixteen years old–I don’t want to die”–is brutal.
- And Alyson Hannigan is so great in her first big dramatic scene, and she made me so sad about the deaths of kids we didn’t even know. She’s such a good crier!
- LOVE the cut from Cordelia screaming for help to Buffy doing her cocky walk down the street to an instrumental version of the theme song. So funny/empowering.
- I just generally want to walk down the street like Buffy does in this episode, wet hair and all.
- This squiggly demon is really bad at biting people.
- I don’t love the “I may be dead, but I’m still pretty” line either, but I do love that this episode as a whole is like a master class in third-wave girly feminism. Not only is Buffy literally kicking ass in a prom dress, but she spends the whole episode resisting men’s narratives for her. When Giles tells her that her future has been ordained in books, Buffy throws his books at him. She puts on the dress because her mother told her it wasn’t “written anywhere” that she couldn’t go to Spring Fling without a date. And then when the Master complains that her death was inevitable because it was “written,” she says she “flunks the written.” That’s my favorite one-liner, because on its face, it sounds cute and ditsy, but it’s actually super subversive.
- This is, in my opinion, the first really great episode of the show. Firing on all cylinders. So excited for season two!