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 2, Episode 19 “I Only Have Eyes For You”
So, this was a very clever episode. Like, a lot of it didn’t make sense (more on that later) but I really liked how the climax of the episode came together with the overall arc of the season in a nifty way. A+!
The “Sadie Hawkins” dance is coming up at Sunnydale High, a tradition that certainly did not exist in the high school I went to (not because they were so progressive they believed women could ask men to any dance if they wanted, probably more because the Emily Gilmore types would’ve had a heart attack at the notion of a lady asking a gentleman to a dance) but which I know from many other teen TV shows involves the girls asking the boys to the dance. Buffy, still in a very dour mood after her breakup with Angel, gets hit on by at least one hopeful ask-ee while brooding at the Bronze, but tells him that she’s actually not seeing anyone… ever… again. Heh.
Meanwhile, people at the school are intently acting out the same scene over and over again. The first time we see it, it’s two teens who seem to be having your classic toxic breakup until the boy, claiming that love is forever, pulls a gun on the girl. Luckily, Buffy interrupts them–but weirdly enough, the gun just disappears, and he barely seems to even understand what happened.
Principal Snyder blames Buffy for inciting the incident, but while he’s called away to deal with a vegan who’s chained himself to the snack machine (ahhh, the quirky commentary on up-to-the-minute social issues!), the 1955 Sunnydale yearbook pushes itself to the floor. Spooky! Buffy doesn’t make the connection till she has a mini hallucination while napping in class. She’s back in 1955, and a young varsity athlete is holding hands with the teacher (Meredith Salenger, last seen on this blog playing the snotty film critic who is inexplicably attracted to Dawson). Xander pooh-poohs her “wiggin’s”… until he opens his locker and nearly gets choked to death by a gray hand that suddenly reaches out and grabs his neck. Giles decides this is a poltergeist. And unfortunately, poltergeists don’t always know what they want, so they just lash out.
Like Buffy, Giles is still getting over the gruesome death of his beloved, Ms. Calendar. Willow tries to help by giving him an old and rather fugly rose quartz bracelet belonging to her:
Anyway, he becomes convinced the poltergeist is Jenny when he hears a mysterious voice and then witnesses a janitor and a teacher acting out the same scene that we already saw earlier. This time the janitor actually shoots the teacher with the ghost gun (even though it disappears later). And Giles pulls rank on the kids when they gently try to point out that Ms. Calendar wasn’t killed by a gun and her death bears no resemblance to the scene people are acting out.
Left to themselves, the kids find an article about a murder-suicide where a teacher and a student had an affair and the student shot the teacher and then himself. They’re the same people Buffy had a dream about. Buffy calls the kid a sicko, but Willow feels bad for him and wants to use Ms. Calendar’s “pagan sites” to learn how to communicate with him.
The next totally unrelated ghost thing that happens is probably best summarized as Snakes in a Cafeteria. Cordelia’s screams, as usual, make the scene for me. The one big surprise of this scene is that we hear the Principal and the Sheriff talking–and we learn that the principal knew there was a hellmouth under the school when he took the job and was specifically recruited to deal with it. Interesting! Then why does he have it out for Buffy? Shouldn’t he know she’s probably on his side? But also, I have another question. What do the snakes and the hand have to do with this scene? It’s a poltergeist that creates totally random jump scares and creates very specific recreations of his crime? Huh?!
Willow uses The Internet to learn how to do an exorcism, and Buffy eagerly volunteers to take the center of the circle where they’re hoping to make the ghost appear at midnight. But as soon as they get into the school all the doors shut on them. Spooky! Suddenly the poltergeist goes wild–it makes Cordelia’s face look funny, and equally tragically, sucks Willow down into the ground. She’s rescued just in time by Giles (there late looking for his supposed poltergeist ex-girlfriend), who finally accepts that this couldn’t be Ms. Calendar. When midnight hits, the kids duly light their candles, but they’re all chased out by a giant herd of … bees? I don’t get how this fits either! But, sure. Buffy kicks the door in to let them all free.
Later, though, while everyone has a nice British tea at Buffy’s house, Buffy suddenly announces that the ghost wants forgiveness. But, Giles realizes, he’s doomed to kill his Miss Newman over and over, so will never be forgiven. Then they have a long argument about forgiveness, where Buffy is clearly equating James to Angel–someone who is trying to destroy his ex–and the others seem to be more sympathetic to the kid. Buffy hears a voice whisper, “I need you”–and marches off to the school. Meanwhile, Dru has had a vision that Buffy is dancing with death, and Angel has gone to find her.
The Scoobs stand helplessly outside the school, which is still swarming with bees. They recap for us once more: since the reenactments always end up with death, he will never break the cycle. Gee, if only there was someone around who couldn’t die! (I kid, I kid… like I said, I find this whole thing very clever actually.) Indeed, Angel shows up–and they start acting out the scene, with Buffy playing the part of the scorned student, while Angel plays the teacher. Buffy finally shoots him–but of course, he can’t die. So when she goes into the music room to shoot herself, as the student did, he follows her in–still in the persona of the teacher–to tell Buffy it wasn’t her fault, it was “an accident” (I mean, sure?) and he never stopped loving her. “I loved you with my last breath,” he says, and htey kiss passionately. Then the ghost kind of forms a big glowing ball up at the ceiling, and they come to. Buffy is all ready to keep going with the passionate makeout session, but Angel just freaks out and pushes her away and goes off to exfoliate the gross emotions away. Aww, poor Buffy. Although I guess it’s a good thing he didn’t bother to stick around to kill her for whatever reason?
OK, so it’s all over. The ghost is forgiven and he’s gone, and I guess I’m never going to find out why sometimes he did reenactments like a Civil War buff and sometimes he was more like, “Hey, I’m gonna chase you with a swarm of bees and/or quicksand.” Buffy tells Giles she doesn’t really understand why the teacher would forgive the student. Frankly, neither do I. Meanwhile, Angel finishes exfoliating and goes off with Dru to find a toddler to bite… leaving Spike to suddenly stand up and get out of his wheelchair. Twist!
Notes from a New Fan:
- This guy Ben who hits on Buffy suggests that she ask him to the Sadie Hawkins dance. I feel that he is kind of doing an end run around the spirit, if not the letter, of the concept of this dance.
- Willow’s sweaters have gotten progressively more ridiculous this season, I feel. [Agreed–and at a club, no less! –Janes]
- Shouldn’t Principal Snyder be focusing on getting a real sub for Ms. Calendar (as opposed to an overeager student) and not on framing Buffy for a domestic violence disturbance?
- Wait, does Xander always have a red toy hanging by a noose in his locker or was that put there by the giant hand that reached out to choke him? I’m confused. No one ever mentions it again, so maybe that’s just how Xander decorates his locker? He has the worst sense of humor, like, ever, so… why not.
- I can’t decide how I feel about this whole argument where the gang talk about the kid who shot his teacher. On the one hand, generally, it’s weird to “feel bad” for someone or “have mercy” on them after they shoot their ex-girlfriend. On the other hand, she was his teacher, so it’s really more like a kid shooting their abuser. On the other OTHER hand, Willow and Xander seem to feel sorry for him more as “poor wittle man who has feelings that must be deferred to even at the cost of a woman’s life” than “victim of abuse who snapped.” So, in conclusion, everyone in this scene is wrong.
- Ooh, interesting, so Principal Snyder knows this town is on a Hellmouth? That’s the first time we’ve found this out, right?! Intrigue!
- Xander asks Buffy if she’s sure she can handle the ghost. Xander, shut up!! She’s the chosen one! She kills vampires as her after-school snack!
- It’s funny, like, I get scared pretty easily, but this show seems to be more about the appearance of being scary than actually being scary? Or maybe it’s that I spend the whole time writing snarky notes in Google Docs while writing it? Because when the kids are alone in the school and all the doors slam on them, I didn’t get a chill really at all. But I did yelp when that hand reached out to grab Xander!
- I guess Buffy would be invested in a teacher-student romance, since her high school boyfriend is 241.
- I hate to say anything less than completely positive about Alyson Hannigan, but she is not as good a screamer as Charisma Carpenter. It’s cute, though. Like Simba’s roar.
- Um, what is with the weird way Giles and Willow are entwined as they roll down the stairs? And then she holds onto his arm while she talks to him about Jenny. This all seems very inappropriate!
- Why does Cordelia’s face go all wonky for a minute? Do we ever find out? So confused.
- I also like that the ghost slammed the school doors shut, but Buffy can just kick them down.
- Wait. So is Buffy going to cure Angel of his soul loss thing by forgiving him? Interesting. I mean, in a way, there’s nothing to forgive him for… he has no soul, so. Kinda not his fault.
Notes from a True Stan:
- The Sadie Hawkins Dance is yet another classic high school tradition that I’ve only ever seen on TV. Did this girls-ask-boys thing ever actually happen?
- “I was wondering if you wanted to–ask me!” That’s cute.
- I think we’re supposed to agree with Willow that Buffy has mourned Angel long enough and should put herself out there, but, um, I don’t. It’s been what, a month? That wouldn’t be very long to hardcore mourn a long-term relationship, even if he weren’t still around and trying to kill her friends and family!
- “I’m no stranger to conspiracy. I saw JFK.” LOL! I had no idea Snyder was that kind of freak.
- Also, he calls a kid who chains himself to the vending machine a “pathetic little no-life vegan”! Hee!
- The Scooby gang makes a big deal about figuring out who the poltergeist is, and Buffy doesn’t think to mention that she had a vision of random people from the fifties?
- Um, this poor janitor! We never see him again, so he’ll just always think he murdered someone.
- Oh, it’s so sad when Giles assumes the ghost is Jenny just because he desperately wants to talk to her again. Still not as sad as the janitor, though.
- Yeah, this conversation about “not feeling badly” for the kid who murdered his teacher does not age well. Sure, he killed his partner because she broke up with him, which is inexcusable, but he was also a victim of statutory rape! (Or at least coercive power dynamics, if he was technically over the age of consent.)
- And then Buffy makes a particularly ill-timed joke about how she wishes this kid went to prison and “made special friends with Roscoe the Weightlifter.” Putting aside the fact that I hate prison rape jokes with every fiber of my being, this kid is already a victim of sexual abuse! Sheesh.
- Also, Buffy “over-identifying” with this particular poltergeist always seemed like a stretch to me. I know she blames herself over Angel losing his soul, but she makes all of these significant statements about the ghost kid where she’s supposed to be relating to him, like, “He couldn’t make her love him so he killed her.” How does that apply to her situation? [I read this as her identifying with the teacher. Like, they broke up and now Angel is trying to destroy her. Am I totally reading this wrong?! Well, so be it — I’m the recapper 🙂 –Nerdy Spice]
- Ugh OF COURSE Xander uses the term “hairy-legged feminist.” So much hatred.
- I always loved when Giles says that forgiveness is an act of compassion, and it “isn’t given because people deserve it, it’s given because they need it.” I actually disagree, and think that forgiveness should be given when someone puts in the work to change themselves and make amends, but it’s a nice speech anyway.
- SMG kills it in the scene where Buffy and Angel reenact the murder. David Boreanaz–not so much.
- Grace (in Angel’s body) says that she’s sorry to James for breaking up with him… Not what she should be sorry about.
- I love when Spike casts off his wheelchair as if it’s some big revelation. They’re vampires! They have healing abilities! The real question is how Angel and Drusilla didn’t figure it out for so long.
Season 2, Episode 20 “Go Fish”
Sunnydale’s swim team is suddenly doing well, so everyone in school is partying at the beach, even alleged “freaks” Buffy, Xander, and Willow, the latter of whom is wearing yet another giant sweater. One of the swim team guys starts hitting on Buffy, first by commenting on how “eternal” the ocean is (blech), then expounding on how it’s a “true mother, giving birth to new life and devouring old, always adaptable and nurturing, yet constant and merciless” oh my god, make it stop. Somehow, this sort of works on Buffy, and she starts flirting back, but then they’re interrupted by a couple of other meatheads (including Wentworth Miller from Prison Break) bullying poor tiny Jonathan. Buffy saves him, and the meatheads wander down the beach. We hear growling, and then one of the meatheads has been reduced to a pile of steaming skin and cartilage (yuck!), while a big creature-from-the-black-lagoon thing escapes into the sewers.
The next day, Buffy rides to school with Pretentious Swim Team guy, who, shockingly enough, is still pontificating about the “vastness” of the ocean. She’s finally starting to realize how truly terrible this person is, and tries to excuse herself from the car, when he asks her if she’s wearing a bra, locks her in, and tries to sexually assault her. She breaks his nose on the steering wheel (hee!), but he doesn’t get in trouble because he’s on the Swim Team. (Meanwhile, she gets slut-shamed for her outfit by the creepy swim coach, because superpowers can only save you from so much.) He gets some poetic justice, though, when Xander finds a pile of his skin and cartilage in the cafeteria.
The Scooby gang quickly figures out that the monster is targeting the best swimmers on the swim team, so they immediately think of Jonathan. Willow gets out all of her bad-cop Law and Order interrogation skills, which is pretty amusing, but in the end Jonathan only admits to peeing in the pool. Heh. (And, as Willow says–ew.)
Since the swimmers are dropping like flies, there aren’t enough team members for their upcoming meets, so Xander joins the team to get behind-the-scenes access, Miss Congeniality-style. There’s a hilarious scene where the girls openly lust after him before realizing it’s him (while the camera pans up his body in slow motion–the female gaze is strong in this one), and then when he sees them, he covers up his area with a boogeyboard. Hee!
Meanwhile, Buffy starts following Wentworth Miller around, because he’s the next best swimmer. He tells her to get lost, even when she makes a feeble attempt to flirt with him (rude!), and then he promptly has a run-in with Angel. Buffy’s about to save him, when she sees that Angel is spitting out Wentworth Miller’s blood. She quickly deduces that the swimmers are taking steroids, and Xander starts subtly sniffing around for proof. While waiting around for Wentworth Miller, she hears him scream, and finds him face-to-face with a sea monster. She’s in the process of saving him when–twist!–Wentworth Miller screams, rips off his shirt like the Hulk, then rips off his skin and sheds it to become one of the sea monsters. It’s pretty gross!
Buffy and Giles tell the coach that the boys are turning into monsters, and he pleads ignorance to the steroids. They’re suspicious of him, but they weirdly let him off the hook, and then he confirms his evilness when he throws the school nurse (who’s in on the conspiracy, but having second thoughts) down into the sewer to be eaten by the swimmers-turned-sea-monsters. Then, after another swimmer (Shane West!!) informs Xander that the steroids are being absorbed through the steam in the steam room, Buffy is positive that the coach is involved and confronts him. He denies it for about two seconds, then immediately goes into a super campy, Bond-villainesque monologue about how Russians once experimented with fish DNA in steroids for the Olympics or something (gee, do you think that’s where they got the idea for this episode?). Then pulls out a gun and forces Buffy to jump into the sewer, but not to be eaten–“Boys have other needs,” he says evilly. Wow. That is–dark.
While Buffy’s fending off the sea monsters, Xander walks in to find the coach watching it like a big freak. He asks where Buffy is, and the coach helpfully glances at the gun so Xander can steal it from him, knock him out, and help Buffy escape the sewer. The coach attacks them again, and in the scuffle accidentally falls into the sewer. They try to save him, but he’s overtaken by the sea monsters. “Those boys really love their coach,” Buffy quips. Male rape is funny! [Wait, is it rape? I thought they were just eating him as like a dessert! –Nerdy Spice]
In the end, we have a classic early-season Buffy coda: Xander and the other swimmers are getting blood transfusions so they don’t turn into sea monsters, and the extant sea monsters have headed for the hills. Buffy confidently says they don’t have to worry about them, because they’re “going home,” and then we see them frolicking in the ocean. I mean, they’re still sea monsters with a penchant for eating (and occasionally raping) human beings, but okay.
Notes from a New Fan
- Buffy is so the emo kid at the party, going off to stare at the “eternity” of the ocean instead of hanging with her friends! Poor Buffy.
- I love that Cordelia is actually genuinely laughing at Xander’s and Willow’s jokes and not pretending to be too cool for them. Growth!
- Buffy, when a guy comes up to you at a party and hits on you by talking about how the ocean is “our true mother,” … run.
- I totally recognized Wentworth Miller as soon as he appeared as one of the members of the doomed swim team! He looks like such a baby.
- I love how Wentworth Miller, like, is walking along with his buddy on a dark beach, then smells something foul and can’t find his buddy anymore … and then just shrugs and walks away. I’ve noticed this about male friendships, like, there is absolutely no expectation that you’ll try to find someone who gets left behind. Whereas if I disappeared on the beach, I would hella expect my female friend to search for me, and then to apologize profusely if she left without me and saw me later. And then I would apologize for worrying her. Sure, it’s a lot of emotional energy, but at least then you know if you get your skin unzipped by a stinky sea monster on a darkened beach, your body (or rather, your flayed skin) will be found way sooner.
- Speaking of which, the unzipping noise that the monster makes while divesting the swim guy of his skin is… graphic. Or possibly he was always a sea monster in a human suit? But the weak screams suggest otherwise. I guess I’ll find out in thirty minutes. [Update: I was kinda right!]
- Is this fool STILL GOING ON ABOUT THE VASTNESS OF THE OCEAN? No wonder Buffy is so ready to slam the guy’s head into the steering wheel.
- Blech, the body is still steaming! Yuck!!
- Willow’s shirt is sooo ugly. It looks like one of the pages of those I Spy books.
- Xander’s sexy walk in the speedo is also hilarious.
- Is that Shane West?! What a random set of soon-to-be-famous bit parts in this episode! I guess that this episode is about a swim team, so they needed to find every CW-looking guy in the entire world at that time.
- Wow this episode is gruesome! They eat the school nurse!!
- All the swim team members just get into the book cage on Giles’s command? Seems unlikely for a bunch of steroidally enhanced teenagers.
- Aww, Cordelia tells (supposed) FishXander that she thought he looked hot in the Speedo and still wants to date him even if he’s a fish! That’s love.
- Wow, Xander lifted Buffy out of that hole with one arm… good thing she only weighs like 90 pounds!
Notes from a True Stan
- Love that the swimmers’ names are Cam, Gage, and Dodd. Such 90s jock names.
- Aw, Willow made a meta-joke about Sunnydale being number one in mortality rate! Seriously, though.
- Also slightly meta–Wentworth Miller casually says Buffy “gives [him] the creeps.” I feel like kids would be talking about this all the time.
- Did Snyder appoint Willow to take over for Ms. Calendar just so he could pressure her to change star athletes’ grades? Because that would actually make a lot more sense.
- Eww Xander accuses Buffy of being a “swim team perk” just because she accepts a ride from Cam? He’s so gross.
- I do like when he says, “Oh forgive me, Your Swim Teamliness,” though.
- Why do Giles and the rest of the gang treat Buffy like she’s being self-centered for talking about her almost-sexual assault? Everyone is the worst this episode.
- Hee, I love when Willow raises her hand in normal conversation and Buffy just rolls with it and calls on her.
- Wentworth Miller’s reaction to Buffy’s warnings is a little weird. I get that he doesn’t like her, and that he wouldn’t believe that she could protect him, but he acts like she’s crazy for saying he might be in danger. Doesn’t he know that two of his friends are dead?
- Wait, steroids can prevent a vampire attack? Sooo… shouldn’t everyone in Sunnydale be on them?
- Buffy’s sarcastic wave at Gage is hilarious.
- It pains me to say this, but um… Xander does look kind of hot in the Speedo.
- Ha, they explicitly reference the Creature from the Black Lagoon! So much meta!
- It always struck me as a little odd that they confirm the coach’s evilness right before Buffy’s confrontation with him. It would have been so much more shocking if they cut that whole scene with the nurse, and he had just thrown Buffy down into the sewer with no warning!
- The scene where Cordy thinks Xander has become a sea monster is hilarious and adorable. She’s supposed to be the shallowest character, but she promises to make his life better with bath toys, and actually says they could still date! (I don’t think I could ever be that loyal to someone, personally.) She loves him so much, and he never appreciates her. Justice for Cordy.