Janes (a True Stan) and Nerdy Spice (a New Fan) are watching all of Buffy together and comparing notes.
Season 3, Episode 4 “The Beauty and the Beasts”
Remember when Oz was a werewolf and no one ever talked about it again? It turns out that three nights a month, the gang locks him up in the book cage and Willow reads to him from Call of the Wild (hence the hilariously dramatic voiceovers, a Buffy staple). Willow lets Xander watch him so she can study, but he immediately falls asleep, and Oz gets out of his cage. I blame Xander’s sheer incompetence, but can they also just–stop trapping monsters in the book cage? Has this ever worked for them, even once?
Actually, they don’t know for sure that Oz got out of his cage, but they’re still very worried when a classmate turns up mauled. (Although, should they really be worried? Do they really think there’s only one monster capable of mauling someone in Sunnydale at any given time?)
Also, Buffy and Scott are in the shy, pre-relationship stage, which is actually pretty cute, considering how boring and rebound-ish he is. Faith serves as the devil on Buffy’s shoulder telling her that “all men are beasts” and “they’re all just in it for the chase.” This is as gross and gender essentialist as it sounds, but Faith is still a delight. I especially like how she encourages Buffy, who is understandably skittish about all things sex, to get back in the saddle, so to speak. “He gives you that down-low tickle, right?” she asks Buffy of Scott. Sex positivity!
For a brief, shining moment, it looks like Buffy might start to work through her issues surrounding sex, Angel, the trauma of her everyday life, etc. She goes to a school counselor, as a condition of getting back into school, and at first the doctor seems like your typical, overly zany TV therapist, who sprays things randomly into the air and says things like, “Any person who claims to be totally sane is either lying or not very bright.” (Although, I guess that was more insightful in the 90s, before Tumblr and self-care culture and everything else made these kind of platitudes, well, platitudinous.) But after a few minutes, he successfully builds a rapport with her, and gets her to tell him about what happened with Angel–the non-supernatural version, anyway. He reassures her that it’s natural to get “lost in love,” but the trick is not to “stay lost.” It seems like she might make some progress, until she runs into a vampire on patrol and it’s… Angel!
She’s understandably shocked, but keeps it together enough to get the best of him in a fight and chain him up in the old mansion where he tried to raise Acathla. He’s acting feral, like a wild animal, which makes him the new prime suspect in the recent mauling. She goes to the library, presumably to look up “What to Do When Your Vampire Ex-Lover Comes Back from Hell” in the card catalog. Giles finds her there in the morning, and she doesn’t tell him anything, but she asks him “hypothetically” what would happen if Angel came back. He reminds her–and the audience–that time moves differently in Hellish dimensions, so he would have been there for hundreds of years. “Most likely he’d be a monster,” he says, bluntly. But he also says there are two types of monsters, those that want to be redeemed, and those that are incapable of responding to reason, “or love.” Heavy!
Also, Buffy’s therapist gets mauled, so… no chance of her working through her issues anytime soon.
The tension that it might be Angel mauling people collapses pretty quickly though, because it turns out that Scott’s friend Pete is doing a whole Jekyll-Hyde thing, where he invented some sort of neon-green “formula” that makes him very veiny and violent towards his girlfriend, Debbie. It also makes him deliver canned movie-of-the-week lines, like “You know you shouldn’t make me mad,” in case Buffy’s therapy session wasn’t an obvious enough metaphor for abusive relationships. There’s also this WILDLY inappropriate scene where Debbie tries to justify Pete’s behavior–“he just loves me too much,” etc–while sporting a nasty black eye, and Buffy literally forces her to stand in front of a mirror, aggressively says, “Look at yourself. Someone who loves you couldn’t do this to you,” and then basically blames Debbie for Pete’s murders. Then, when Debbie understandably breaks down, Willow says, “I think you broke her,” and Buffy replies, “I think she was already broken.” Um, bad form, Buffy!
Meanwhile, Pete saw Oz briefly talking to Debbie, so he tries to attack Oz in the book cage. But it’s the last night of the full moon, so Oz-wolf holds his own. Buffy and Faith arrive in time to contain Oz, and Buffy almost tranquilizes Pete, but Debbie saves him, and he kills her for her trouble. Jesus! I get that they’re trying to illustrate how often girls are killed by abusive partners, but like–justice for Debbie!
Buffy fights Pete again, and just as he seems to be getting the best of her a little bit, Angel, who has escaped from the mansion, shows up, fights him, and breaks his neck. I guess this is supposed to be a metaphor for him fighting his evil abuser side, or something, because right after that he takes the vamp face off, gives Buffy a sensitive squinty-eye, hugs her around the waist, and sobs. It doesn’t make a ton of sense for him to have a breakthrough so quickly, and it’s not a great metaphor as far as abusive relationships go, but I have to admit that, as a young Bangel shipper, this always made me tear up. He’s a redeemable monster! Ugh, I know, whatever.
Notes from a New Fan:
- I do love how Oz being a werewolf seemed to have pretty much dropped into the TV graveyard of forgotten plotlines along with Buffy’s superjumps. But now it’s back! Hooray.
- Good thing no one ever goes in the library so they can safely imprison an active werewolf there.
- And by “safely” I mean that Xander shows up long enough to spew some gay panic, get creepily possessive about Willow handling Oz’s half-monty, and… fall asleep while Oz escapes. Great job, Xander. Always a champ.
- Faith’s accent is still weird, but seems to resemble a Boston accent slightly more closely now. Slightly.
- Faith names a spectrum of man from “Manimal” to “Mr. I-Love-The-English-Patient.” Heh. What’s the present-day equivalent of the guy who proves he’s sensitive by loving Michael Ondaatje? “Mr. I-Love-My-Struggle-the-Norwegian-one-not-the-Hitler-one”? “Mr. I-Love-The-Marriage-Plot”?
- I’ve seen a lot of bad therapists on TV but possibly none as ridiculously bad as this. He SMOKES in front of his TEENAGED PATIENT?! What?!
- I honestly had forgotten that Angel was still alive and we’re waiting for the fallout of that until he came up in therapy. I just cannot work up any emotions about this guy!
- Xander is all, it’s not Oz’s fault. Like, yep, I agree! It’s Xander’s fault.
- I’m far too annoyed by Oz’s thing about how guys sometimes need to walk away from conversations to actually discuss it.
- Wait… so then BUFFY falls asleep on Oz watch? OK, now I feel a little bad for being so mean when Xander did it. (But just a little)
- This is such an on-the-nose–not necessarily in a bad way–portrayal of abusers who turn into total monsters temporarily and then become human again (but still blame the woman for making them that way).
- If Oz can lock himself in a cage, that seems like poor security.
- Good thing Monster Pete is more interested in slapping Oz around a little as opposed to his usual mode of killing people instantly? Another entry in the pantheon of monsters on this show who dawdle at convenient moments.
- It continues to be very fun watching Buffy kick monsters in the face.
- It’s also super fun watching Faith shoot Oz in the butt. She’s such a great addition. So bad-ass!
Notes from a True Stan:
- Willow says primly that she’s still getting used to “half a monty” (as opposed to full-monty) when it comes to Oz, and a scandalized Xander asks, “Half? Which half?” I… don’t understand this question? In what universe would Willow be seeing Oz’s lower half but not his top half? [Maybe it’s not about his top monty or his bottom monty. Maybe it’s his back monty. Or his front monty. 😉 —Nerdy Spice]
- Similarly, how could Buffy not know what Faith means by “down-low tickle”? What other body part could she be referring to?
- It’s kind of cute how Oz-wolf looks up when Willow leaves, like a dog with its owner. It’s also weird, because like, he’s her boyfriend.
- I love that the writers don’t even try to make Xander’s mistake understandable. They could have shown him trying to stay awake but failing, or dropping off as he read to Oz. But no, he just watches Willow leave, immediately lies down on a table, and actively tries to go to sleep. WTF is wrong with him? Does he want to be bad at everything?
- Um, isn’t Giles a little concerned when he finds Buffy dozing in a chair when she’s supposed to be watching Oz? Didn’t we just go through this with Xander?
- Willow says she’s been at the donut shop since “the TV did the snowy thing.” Wow, that takes me back!
- I think the most memorable moment in this episode for me is when Debbie says she didn’t like Dr. Platt because she “didn’t like some of the things he said.” So sad.
- LOL to Pete easily taking off the door to the book cage. Seriously, invest in a panic room or something!
Season 3, Episode 5 “Homecoming”
Not unexpectedly given the title, the kids are all in a tizzy over another high school ritual: the Homecoming dance. Xander tries to get away with taking the bus, which… it’s sweet that Cordelia takes this in stride, given that she’s… Cordelia. Scott Hope manages to overcome his congenital timidity just long enough to ask Buffy to Homecoming, with a little prompting from Cordy.
Speaking of people Buffy’s much more attracted to than she is to Scott, Angel has progressed to wearing buttondowns while pacing and grunting in his temple. Buffy is bringing him brown-bag lunches consisting of Tupperwares full of blood. What a good girlfriend! Well, except that she’s actually Scott’s girlfriend, and she outright tells Angel that she wants to keep being his girlfriend since she can count on him. Too bad he dumps her for being distracted the next day! Luckily, Faith suggests she be Buffy’s replacement date–just so they can scout out some guys together, keep your fanfic-writing fingers still! Buffy’s troubles aren’t over: she also can’t get her favorite teacher to write a recommendation for Principal Snyder’s silly obstacle course. When she finds out she missed yearbook photo day because Cordelia forgot to deliver a message to her, she’s enraged–and vows to take the Homecoming Queen crown herself.
Some dudes who look like the Keepers of the Continuum from Dude Where’s My Car (yes, I know my references are outdated… but they wouldn’t be outdated when this episode first aired, so…) are spying on Buffy using high-tech equipment like a flipphone plugged into a router, and binoculars. This is so that the head honchos back at the high-tech headquarters can “target” Buffy. For what, we don’t know. Maybe for a nice game of Rubik’s Cube.
The Mayor gets warning that the two Keepers (who appear to be brothers and also internationally wanted criminals) are in town and sends his employee to keep an eye on them. The Mayor is a weird germophobe and super creepy. Is this the same Mayor who totally knows that we’re living on a Hellmouth? I can’t figure it out.
Anyway, back at High-Tech HQ, a suave guy in a velvet suit is running a competition called SlayerFest 98, where competitors include vampires, human terrorists, and even a guy who looks like a human whose scalp was made from the hide of a tiny stegosaurus. The goals are Buffy and Faith. But for some reason they have to wait till Homecoming, so they spend the first night, like, doing Hunger Games-style orgying and training.
Willow and Xander, for whatever reason, choose to practice getting ready in the same room with Willow changing behind one of those sexy translucent screens that only exist for getting characters to make out. Willow, in her stylish new bob, makes some questionable fashion choices. Why doesn’t she have help from Buffy? Xander is completely incapable of thinking about someone other than himself. Except when he decides to get curious about how far Willow and Oz have gotten. Then Willow emerges from behind the screen with a dress that reduces Xander to blessed silence and then they practice-dance based on a flimsy contrivance AND OMG YOU GUYS I HATE THIS. STOP FLIRTING. GROSS. AHHHHHHH NOOOOO SHE KISSED HIM!!!! I HATE IT!
Buffy launches her campaign while assuming the help of Willow–who’s in charge of “making a database”–and even Xander. But as soon as Cordelia comes by, it turns out they’ve all already agreed to help her, and Buffy is left alone with her sad little Strengths and Weaknesses chart and the inadequate sympathies of Giles. When she realizes even her baked goods are outshone by Cordelia’s gift baskets, she guilts Willow into giving her fifteen minutes alone with Cordelia’s database. But the whole thing devolves into a screaming match in the hall. Naturally, Willow and Xander are forced to retire alone to Xander’s bedroom to discuss this (NOOOOOO), despite the fact that Xander dismisses all this as a chick fight like a giant asshole. They almost make out (NOOOOOO) but then decide to get the two enemies talking, so everyone tricks them into taking the limo to the dance alone.
Unfortunately, this results in Cordelia being with Buffy when SlayerFest 98 begins, with the limo dropping them in the middle of the woods–complete with a videotaped introduction from Suave Velvet guy. Buffy competently defends Cordelia from the first attack, which involves bear traps. They escape to some cottage in the woods where Cordelia–tragically–sobs that she thinks she might be in love with Xander. Oh boy. Poor Cordy. They try to call Giles, but the line goes dead. Then they’re under attack from the stegosaurus demon, but he gets blown up when the Keepers launch a rocket into the cabin. Cordy and Buffy escape just in time. They go to find Giles at the library, but he’s been knocked out cold by the Southern vampires. Buffy stakes the girlfriend, Cordelia gives the boyfriend a scary yet nonsensical speech about how she’s the “Queen” and is going to kill him, and he runs away.
As soon as there’s a moment of calm, Buffy realizes that the Germans are on their way because “they’re hooked into a computer system.” And the corsage she’s wearing has some kind of tracker in it. Clever! Sure enough, the Keepers are on the hunt with their rifles. But Buffy wraps the tracker in wet toilet paper, and sticks it onto one of the Keepers so they both end up killing each other in a gun fight.
Suave Velvet Man, who we finally learn is named “Mr. Trick,” gets arrested and brought directly to the germophobic Mayor’s office. The Mayor is heading into an election year, and he loves the whole “Slayerfest” idea, so he wants Mr. Trick on his team. And he seems to be planning to force him to join; how, I don’t know.
In the end, Cordelia and Buffy both lose out to a tie between their two rivals. They don’t even pretend to clap for the victors, just walk away rolling their eyes. Rude!
Notes from a New Fan:
- Wait… Buffy didn’t break up with Scott yet? I feel like it’s awkward to keep tepidly kissing your sorta-boyfriend when you have the love of your life sweating and panting in a temple nearby. I guess maybe it’s also awkward to dump someone right after it turns out their best friend is a literal monster (but has died)?
- Buffy tells Angel that she’s going to keep helping him, because of their whole eternal love pact, but everything’s different: “I’m a senior… and I’m involved with someone.” Way to bury the lede, lol.
- It’s so sad when Buffy practically begs Scott to stay with her when he’s trying to dump her–and he refuses! In fact, it’s so unlike any 90s teen show to let its heroine be unceremoniously dumped (dumpings while you still clearly love the It-Girl are OK; see: Dean to Rory; Jess to Rory; Logan to Rory; Dawson to Joey; Pacey to Joey; Eddie to Joey) that I am forced to speculate that Scott Hope has been bewitched by whatever MOTW we’re dealing with here.
- Speaking of MOTW, serious question, are these men actually identical or is it just that I seriously can’t tell dudes apart?
- Scott Hope seems a lot more excited about Buffy once he learns she’s running for Homecoming Queen. Could he be more obvious?
- Cordelia pretending to be into the Vulcan death grip so she can get the nerd vote is shameless and wonderful, just like pretty much everything she does.
- Faith gets pissed that Scott is dancing with another girl mere days after dumping Buffy, so she convinces her that Scott has an STD of the burning and itching variety. Classic “saucy girl” TV trope. But I like that Faith is pro-solidarity. I think Buffy and Cordelia–and Willow!–could learn a lot from her!
- Buffy spent a year’s allowance on her dress. Couldn’t she have gotten one that reached all the way to her ankles instead of making her look like she’s two feet tall? Cordelia’s is objectively gorgeous. OH AND I JUST SAW SHE’S WEARING BODY GLITTER. God, we grew up at a great time for humanity.
- The Southern vampires have an even less convincing Southern accent than Faith’s Boston accent. Did they just not have a budget for a dialect coach?
- The show loved their “It’s a long story.” [short story] “Apparently not that long.” joke from two episodes ago so much, they brought it back for this one!
Notes from a True Stan:
- I think very little about the Buffy/Scott relationship, but when I do, it’s about how incredibly BRUTAL this break-up manages to be. Scott asks her to Homecoming, she tells Angel in that slightly smug, “I’ve moved on” kind of way, and then smash cut to him dumping her. So cold!
- The other thing I think is: what was the point of this whole exercise, exactly? I feel like the writers spent a good amount of time getting us invested in this relationship, with varying degrees of success, and then the ending is so hilariously unceremonious.
- The Mayor is in play! And he’s already amazing: “After every meal, under your fingernails, dirt gets trapped there. And germs. And mayonnaise.”
- Cordelia is supposed to sound crazy when she wants an ice pack to “shrink the pores,” but now people do that shit all the time.
- Buffy got to take a class called “Contemporary American Heroes from Amelia Earheart to Maya Angelou”? In public school? Maybe this is why parents still send their kids to Sunnydale High.
- It’s funny that Cordelia makes fun of Buffy for “not having friends” when, as far as we know, Cordelia hangs out with all of the same people, and they’re mostly closer with Buffy and like her better. Did Cordelia become popular again, and we just don’t see it? Or are we supposed to think that her eventual Homecoming loss is the final nail in the coffin of her popularity?
- Ewwwww Willow and Xander nooooooooo. I blame Lisa Loeb.
- “As Willow goes, so goes my nation.” Oz is so cute! Why, Willow, why?
- Campaigning montage! There can never be enough of these, imo.
- Buffy is actually remarkably understanding about Willow defecting to Cordelia’s camp, without knowing about the whole cheating-guilt thing. Willow hates Cordelia! It’s such a betrayal!
- But also, Buffy calls Cordelia a whore, so she’s not exactly cutting a sympathetic figure.
- Honestly, all of the girls this episode are uncharacteristically terrible. It’s like the network gave the writers a list of regressive stereotypes about high school-aged girls, and they decided to just get them all out of the way in one episode.
- Did–did the TV spontaneously combust? Or did someone have terrible aim and blow it up by accident?
- Aw, Cordelia says she loves Xander! “He grows on you, you know? Like a chia pet.” He doesn’t deserve her.
- It’s such a trope that villains capture characters like Giles and keep them alive because… reasons? Even though Buffy would come to the library anyway? But I guess the Gorches are supposed to be stupid.
- The spatula that kills Candy seems to be like, six inches below her heart. At least.
- When Holly and Michelle tie for Homecoming queen, Devon awkwardly alternates holding the crown above each of their heads. Hee.
Season 3, Episode 6 “Band Candy”
In this episode, Buffy and friends are dealing with two rites of passage: the SATs, and being forced to sell obscure, usually disgusting candy to fundraise for the school band. Between studying, selling, and slaying, Buffy’s feeling a little overscheduled. She gets on her mom’s case about not trusting her to get a driver’s license, and generally being too helicopter-y since she came home from LA. This all leads to Buffy doing the classic “round robin” with her mom and Giles–telling each that she’s spending the night with the other–so she can bring Angel some blood.
She finds Angel doing shirtless Tai Chi, and it’s even sillier than I remembered. (Is there even one episode this season where Angel doesn’t have his shirt off?) Buffy openly lusts after him, and they speak in whispery voices about how they still care and worry about each other. Subtle, guys. Also, Angel asks how Scott is, since Buffy made such a big deal of telling him about her big new relationship last episode, and Buffy literally asks, “Scott?” like she’s already forgotten who he is. HA same.
Buffy comes home to find her mother–and Giles. Woops! They read her the riot act for playing them against each other, and Buffy complains that they’re hovering, and they need to back off and trust her more. (Which usually I would agree with, but Buffy just used her alone time to visit her super secret formerly homicidal vampire ex-boyfriend, so like, should they trust her?)
In a classic be-careful-what-you-wish-for scenario, all of the adults suddenly start acting very laid-back and chill. The kids’ sub lets them goof off, Snyder whines that his life “isn’t fair,” Giles starts using the term “freak out” and plays hooky. Buffy finds him with her mom, supposedly discussing her future, but then when she leaves, we see that they’re listening to records, flirting, and generally acting like teenagers. Once the kids see Snyder, and all of the other Sunnydale adults, getting trashed at the Bronze, the Scoobies quickly figure out that the band candy is making all of the adults regress to their teenage selves. Which means Snyder is a geek who’s ecstatic to hang out with the cool kids, Joyce is a bratty, boy-crazy eye-roller, and Giles, the episode’s MVP, is in full Ripper mode. He’s a moody, rebel-without-a-cause type who talks out of the corner of his mouth while smoking a cigarette. Even his accent is different–cooler and more Spike-like (maybe closer to Anthony Head’s real accent?). He’s secretly the best actor on this show.
Anyway, he and Joyce end up stealing a hideous feathered coat, almost getting arrested, and then hooking up on top of a police car. It’s kind of gross, although not nearly as gross as Xander and Willow playing footsie under the science lab table.
Buffy goes to the place dispensing the band candy–the distributor, or something?–and finds Giles’ old friend Ethan Rayne. Buffy threatens and hits him until he gives up the endgame: Mr. Trick wanted all of the grown-ups in Sunnydale to be distracted so they could steal a bunch of babies from the hospital and feed them to a giant sewer snake as tribute. (Which like, did they really have to get that elaborate? Children die gruesomely in Sunnydale all the time!) Buffy arrives in time to torch the giant sewer snake and save the babies. And she survives the SAT the next day. Killin’ it!
Notes from a New Fan:
- Giles helping Buffy study for the SATs while they patrol is just adorable.
- Buffy shows off by hitting Giles in a bounce shot while blindfolded (I don’t know the sports word, but whatever, it’s fancy). I love it!
- When Buffy finds Angel, he’s doing some kind of slow martial arts dance. Buffy: “I didn’t know you could do that.” Angel: “How else would I fulfill this episode’s thirst quotient?”
- EWWWW STOP PLAYING FOOTSIE WITH XANDER, WILLOW!!!!! I cannot discuss this in anything but all caps.
- So wait, are Giles and Mrs. Buffy gonna hook up [ETA: like in real life, not from a curse]?! I’ve kind of had inklings of this in past episodes…
- I love Rupert as the sort of Jess-Mariano-like too-cool-for-school older boy while Mrs. Buffy anxiously seeks his approval.
Notes from a True Stan:
- Buffy’s finally wearing sweatpants on patrol! The miniskirt is dead, long live the miniskirt.
- Do you think Buffy would have made a Death of a Salesman joke if she weren’t studying for the SATs?
- I love that Cordelia kept a philosophy book for a year for the sole purpose of impressing college guys. I love Cordelia.
- Buffy says the grown-ups are “acting like a bunch of us,” and Willow says indignantly, “I don’t act like this.” Aw. So pure.
- Some of the jokes have gotten funnier as I’ve gotten older, like Snyder saying re: the school board, “Oh, if you knew that crowd…”
- Giles’ gleeful face when Buffy hits Ethan is gold.
- I think I heard on the DVD commentary that the sewer snake was one of the most expensive effects of the season, and it’s–still not great.
- I always tell myself I’m not going to comment on Buffy’s highlighted bangs, but like, they’re actually blinding.