Janes (a True Stan) and Nerdy Spice (a New Fan) are watching all of Buffy together and comparing notes.
Season 4, Episode 10 “Hush”
Let’s get this out of the way: I think “Hush” is overrated, a little gimmicky, and certainly not worthy of being the only Buffy episode to be nominated for a writing Emmy. It’s good and all, but that’s just crazy.
Two things it does have going for it, other than the gimmick: a super creepy villain, and an equally creepy accompanying nursery rhyme. We see both in the prophetic dream sequence that opens the episode, where Professor Walsh is talking about communication, and then forces Buffy and Riley to make out in front of the whole class. (It’s all about how Buffy and Riley are talking too much, so they haven’t kissed each other yet? Or that they can’t make out because they haven’t told each other their secrets yet? Whatever, they’re so boring.) Then Buffy hears a classic little horror girl singing the nursery rhyme: “Can’t even shout / can’t even cry / the Gentlemen are coming by.” Yikes!
That night, the Gentlemen steal everyone’s voices and trap them in a pretty wooden box. The next morning, everyone freaks out, as you can imagine. There are a few cool worldbuilding details, like religious people silently reading “Revelations,” and a sleazy guy selling whiteboards that you can hang around your neck. (Although I don’t really get why everyone is walking in the street? Wouldn’t people be trying to leave before the quarantine took effect?) Anyway, Buffy runs into Riley as they both, unbeknownst to the other, patrol to maintain order. Inexplicably, she doesn’t have her whiteboard anymore, but that’s okay, because the lack of communication allows her and Riley to finally make out. Cool.
Then there’s a pretty terrifying sequence where the Gentlemen float and smile across town, politely knock on a UC Sunnydale kid’s door, and then hold him down and cut out his heart while he tries to scream. The best part of this is definitely when the Gentlemen pass the scalpel between them, like, “No, you do it, I insist.” Amazing. (The worst part is the loud score, which sort of takes away from the silence of it all.)
Also, Tara(!), who was introduced at Willow’s disappointing, New Age-y wicca group, decides to walk across campus and runs into the Gentlemen. She ends up running into Willow–literally–and they get stuck in a room together, trying to use their powers to barricade the door. They’re not strong enough apart, but then Tara takes Willow’s hand (!), and they smash a vending machine into the door together.
Buffy and Riley fight the Gentlemen’s henchmen–and both independently find their lair–until they end up pointing their weapons at each other. Whoops. Buffy and Riley work together to fight the Gentlemen. Buffy sees a pretty jewelry box from her prophetic dream and decides Riley should smash it. It takes a minute to make him understand what exactly he should smash–he’s not the brightest–but when he smashes the box, everyone gets their voice back. Buffy screams, and the Gentlemen’s heads all explode.
In the end, Buffy and Riley are left staring at each other, once again unable to communicate. They both say they “should talk,” and then they fall silent. This relationship’s going great so far.
Notes from a New Fan:
- OK, this is actually one of two Buffy episodes I’ve seen. I watched this episode somewhat by chance, I think, and it was what convinced me that I wouldn’t like Buffy. (I also watched “Once More With Feeling” because I was curious and had heard so much about it. I recall thinking it was fine, but not enough to make me inclined to watch the show.) Let’s see if my feelings have changed! I suspect they will have. For one thing, I have more context and I know the characters. But for another thing, the main reason I didn’t like it was that I thought the jokes were cheesy, and I’m just not sure that’s as much of a sticking point for me as it once was! As I told Janes, “I feel like I’ve mellowed in my old age, and some of the cheesy humor is going to make me laugh now… like I remember being significantly annoyed by some kind of masturbation-related joke and now I’ll probably giggle because I’ve regressed emotionally.” Let’s find out, shall we?
- Ah, Buffy. I also slept a lot during my classes. I feel you! (Although I never had dreams about my TAs, even the cute ones. Did I miss out?)
- Wow it’s so funny how different this episode would be if it took place now. It would be so easy for Xander to just text Buffy to ask if she can talk.
- Some things, on the other hand, never change: blaming a mysterious illness on vaccinations!
- OK, so yeah, the innuendo jokes were still kinda not that funny. The first one — where Willow gestures to her heart and Xander thinks it’s about boobies — is at least knowingly annoying, since Xander is annoying. But how does Giles mix up “stake the vampire in the heart” with a gesture for jerking off? That just makes him seem creepy, like, are you not aware of what Buffy does every single night? (As opposed to what Xander does every single night.)
- So that last scene where Tara tells Willow she’s special is super sweet. And I love when they join forces and hold hands and move that vending machine! A great metaphor for, like, the power of women banding together and whatnot. But at first Tara kind of annoyed me? She smiles a LOT for no apparent reason. I feel very guilty about not liking Tara because I’m extremely spoiled about the eventual outcome here and I know it upset people… but… girl why are you smiling! Maybe that will grow on me though. Or maybe I’m just too much of a New Yorker. [It’s not just you–she’s a little too mousy at the beginning, IMO! She grew on me, though. 🙂 –Janes]
Notes from a True Stan:
- Giles and Spike as odd-couple roommates will never get old.
- Anya asks Xander for extremely basic human decency, like “asking about [her] day” and “not laughing at [her] pain,” and he responds with, “You really did turn into a real girl, didn’t you?” LOATHE.
- I feel like when I was young I really didn’t get these jokes about Willow’s silly Wicca group, with their “empowering lemon bundts” and “woman power shrines.” I think I just thought they were making fun of feminism, but now that New Age culture is such a thing, the “wanna blessed-be” jokes seem much sharper.
- Giles’ Watcher detective work has really gone downhill since he got fired. He literally just wrote down the nursery rhyme Buffy told him and then circled the number “7.”
- The Gentlemen also kind of look like bald versions of the Freddy Krueger-like villain from season 2.
- Um, poor Olivia! She was just visiting, and she gets quarantined and loses her voice.
- That one Gentleman has such a giant smile!
- I think the reason this episode doesn’t feel all that innovative to me is that they don’t really eliminate dialogue, they all just write it down? So then we’re just watching them say the same things, but just written instead of spoken? Which makes sense, realistically, but also creatively feels like a cheat, like they’re not fully taking advantage of the premise.
- Especially since the jokes that do rely on the no-talking aspect of things are more silly than clever. Giles thinks Buffy’s staking motion is masturbation? Really?
- Love Riley’s proud face when he smashes the wrong thing. So dumb.
- Are we supposed to think Giles and Olivia break up in the end? Buffy mentions her later as if they’re still together, but we never see her again!
- So let me get this straight: Tara left her dorm room in the middle of the night to see Willow, a girl she had just met and vibed with, so they could “do a spell together”? How were they going to do a spell when they both lost their voices? This was totally a booty call.
Season 4, Episode 11 “Doomed”
This very dramatic title comes from a declaration Buffy makes to Riley during one of their INTERMINABLE relationship discussions in this episode; it also refers to what everyone is if the baddie-of-the-week, a trio of demons, succeed in completing a ritual to open the Hellmouth in the school library.
Starting with Buffy and Riley: Buffy says that now that she knows he’s one of the demon-hunting commandoes and not just a “corn-fed,” milquetoast Iowa boy, their relationship is doomed. We open with the two of them attempting to have a conversation about their respective secrets, but Riley refuses to share–leaving Buffy to fill in the blanks–and Buffy, for her part, has trouble getting through to Riley because he’s never heard of the Slayer. They then run into each other in a graveyard while Buffy is vastly outshining Riley in the hunt for an escaped “hostile sub-terrestrial”–more on that later–and argue about their relationship. Then they run into each other on the street when Riley is using a hilarious demon-pheromone-tracking device to hunt for said escapee, and argue about their relationship. Then they finally run into each other during the big showdown with the Hellmouth, argue about their relationship, cooperate on rescuing the world from yet another potential apocalypse, and finally, Buffy shows up in Riley’s incredibly unimpressive dorm room to have a big, epic, extremely uninteresting reunion kiss.
OK, so the demons. Basically, they seem to have been activated by an earthquake (or maybe the quake is just an omen? Unclear). And one of them escapes from the clutches of the Commandoes. The gang figures out that they need three artifacts and a set of “sacrifices” to complete their Hellmouth ritual. Unfortunately, Giles doesn’t realize till too late that he has one of the artifacts in his possession, so he gets attacked by the demons, who do a rather poor job against one middle-aged librarian, leaving him with just a few face scratches. But they do figure out where the demons are going, so Buffy and the gang follow them to Sunnydale high school–now in eerie ruins–to try to stop them.
It turns out the demons are going to sacrifice not humans but themselves into the Hellmouth to get it open, so the gang have to try to stop them. Two demons jump into the hole after the artifacts, leaving Buffy to leap in after the third one. Riley, who showed up mid-fight just when Buffy was being overpowered (I find this very annoying), clips Buffy to a zipline so that he can pull her back out of the Hellmouth with the third demon in tow, so the Hellmouth doesn’t get open. Day is saved! Riley, however, has his cover majorly blown since Willow and Xander figure out from his outfit that he’s one of the Commandoes and don’t buy his excuse that he was “playing paintball.” Meanwhile, Riley is too dim to figure out that Spike is a vampire he chemically castrated just a couple weeks ago, so, he’s 0 for 2.
The C-plot is that Spike, trapped in Xander’s basement and at one point reduced to wearing Xander’s intolerably dorky Hawaiian shirt because he failed at doing laundry (do vampires usually not need to do laundry? Or did he always get some willing female vamp to do it for him? Or do vampires have like secret vampire laundromats with drop-off service? So many questions), becomes so desperate at being an impotent basement moocher that he tries to stake himself, so Willow and Xander have to take him along on the Hellmouth mission, and when he realizes he can fight other demons, he gets very excited and even helps them by trying to beat up a demon (although he then throws the demon into the Hellmouth, which turns out to accidentally help the demons). So I am guessing this is probably how Spike becomes a regular part of the show–he can only fight demons, so to retain his sense of masculinity or power or whatever, he allies himself with the Scoobs? Maybe?
D-plot: Willow gets called a nerd at a college party and takes great offense. Also, Xander is offended by Spike pointing out that he graduated high school and moved into his mom’s basement. In other words, both of them are stuck in their high school selves and also literally are returning to their high school. It’s a metaphor!
Notes from a New Fan:
- I’m sooo bored of Riley.
- Why did Buffy put on so much lipstick just to go to Giles’ house?
- Maybe Willow would be less uncomfortable at this college party if she weren’t wearing a full sherpa-lined coat inside? I mean, you do you, Willow, but I don’t think you’re helping yourself here.
- OK I don’t know what college the writers went to, but “naked limbo”? That doesn’t seem like it would be a thing. “Strip limbo,” I mean, maybe? But no, really, no kind of limbo has probably ever taken place at a college party, ever. (I love how I say this like I went to sooo many college parties when in fact I was in the nerd dorm and went to, like, five parties.)
- So I took a long (a very long) break between watching episode 10 and 11, but do I know why Xander is obliged to play host to cranky impotent Spike and pay for his plasma? Why don’t they all just let him fend for himself? If we know this, I’ve forgotten.
- Wait, but so, if Riley’s out in the middle of a code red or whatever, why the fuck is he in the cemetery with only a radio and no weapons?! I mean, I like the contrast, that Buffy can go after a demon alone and unarmed but Riley can’t–but this just makes Riley seem even dumber than he did before. He can’t chase the demon because he has no weapons and no backup, so… maybe he should have brought weapons and backup? Even if he was just on the hunt for Buffy?
- Riley has a poster on his door that has pool balls on it and says “Balls.” on the top? Wow.
- OK, you know what, strike that. It’s kind of funny. Like, I was planning to make fun of him for not being intellectual enough, but actually one of my best friends in college, a very intelligent woman, would always yell “You said balls” if you ever said the word balls during conversations and honestly? I found it hilarious. I still find it hilarious. So whatever, I can’t judge.
- LOL, Riley claiming his skin hums around Buffy in the least chemistry-filled conversation I’ve seen since … well, since Dawson and Joey.
- Also LOL at Riley protesting against being dumped by saying that he’s “thrown.” You’re being dumped! Of course you’re thrown! That’s not an argument that she should keep dating you!
- The way that Professor Walsh’s gang of paramilitary demon hunters talks to each other is soooo over the top. Do they think that soldiers talk to each other like that all the time? “Based on my visual assessment,” instead of just saying the thing looked to be 100 kilograms (and why would they be using kilograms? I guess it sounds more official.)
- I totally sympathize with Willow feeling unable to kill Spike because she knows him, even though he would kill her if he could. So cute when he gets depressed that she’s not scared of him though. I really enjoy their dynamic.
- Omg this scene of Riley convincing Buffy to give them a chance lasts FOREVER. He is SO BORING.
- I like what they did with the school set. It looks very gothic and destroyed. So dramatic!
- So… Buffy says she’s going into the Hellmouth, and Riley carabiners her to him, and then he pulls her back up at whatever time he sees fit, and luckily she just happens to have caught up with the demon and grabbed its hand so that he could pull her up with the demon? I’m confused about how they both knew this was even the plan. And like, what if he had started pulling her up before she got the demon? So many questions.
- So don’t care about Buffy and Riley’s big reunion kiss. I know I was prejudiced by knowing that no one in fandom cares about Buffy/Riley, but… were people supposed to care about this? Like, was this really supposed to make people not miss Angel’s presence in the show? Or was it like when Lorelai dated Alex, that guy who liked to go fishing, and we clearly weren’t supposed to be very invested at all because he was just a plot device to get her to hang out in that kiddie pool with Luke and make us all swoon that he was willing to teach her to fish in her backyard? [Ha! I think it’s more like Jason, because he lasts longer… unfortunately. –Janes]
Notes from a True Stan:
- Love Buffy making fun of the Initiative’s “official-sounding euphemisms” for demons: “unfriendlys,” she guesses, or “non-sapiens.” Men are dumb.
- And of course the Initiative thinks the Slayer is a “myth”! One of my favorite things about this season is how it pits patriarchal, bureaucratic “rationality” (which is ultimately irrational, when you’re by definition dealing with the magical realm) against Buffy’s folkloric, feminine power.
- “I haven’t been a nerd for a very long time!” Willow exclaims after Percy insults her. Aw. We’ve all been there, but if you have to say that, then you’re definitely still a nerd.
- Buffy tells Riley, all conflicted and halting, that she’s “done this before” in relationships, and we’re supposed to think she means Angel, but all I can think of is Owen, the boy from “How to Kill a Guy on the First Date” who thought fighting vampires was a “rush” and wanted to get into a bar fight on their next adventure. They even look alike!
- When Buffy says she doesn’t want to date him anymore, Riley gets this angry look on his face and says he’s “not going to force [him]self on [her]”–um, did that really need to be said??
- And then he forces her to engage in like, a full-on debate about why they should be together! Leave her alone, you weirdo!
- Riley spouts some BS about how Buffy’s negative outlook will be a self-fulfilling prophecy, and she says, “You know there’s nothing more dangerous… than a psych grad student.” Ha!
- Riley does so many toxic, neggy things in this scene, but here are the highlights: he mansplains to her that her job is actually “fun,” even though she just explained to him that Slayers don’t live past twenty-five. Then he calls her “self-involved” because she doesn’t want to be with him, and when that doesn’t work, he condescends to her that she’s just running away because some “good-looking guy done [her] wrong.” And then, when she’s still unamused, he grabs her arms and says she’s just “too scared” for a real relationship. Um, maybe she’s scared because you’re harassing her after she rejected you and are touching her without her permission?? He’s the WORST PERSON.
- I get that Buffy had to deal with her past trauma and everything, but was her boring relationship conflict with Riley really worth a whole apocalypse? It all just feels so low-stakes–definitely the lamest near-apocalypse in the show’s history.
- Love when Spike throws the demon in the Hellmouth and then is like, “What? I was helping.” Heh.
- No but really, why is Riley so bad at coming up with a cover story? Isn’t that his whole job? He can’t do anything!
Season 4, Episode 12 “A New Man”
Confession: I haven’t watched this episode in forever because, well, I don’t really like it! It’s basically Giles’ “The Zeppo,” and while I know a lot of Buffy fans love that one, I don’t, and this is not nearly as entertaining.
So it’s Buffy’s birthday, which as we all know, is a recipe for disaster. But surprisingly, Buffy ends up having a lovely night, and it’s Giles who has a disastrous time. He wasn’t part of the planning for the party, and feels left out. He doesn’t know any of Buffy’s friends apart from Xander and Willow (of course, we don’t even know any of their names, so they can’t be that important). He has an awkward first meeting with Riley, and is embarrassed to admit to him that he’s essentially retired. And worst of all, Buffy goes on and on about Professor Walsh, saying she’s the “smartest person [she’s] ever met,” and, when Giles graciously says they should have invited her, Buffy says, she “has better things to do than hang out with a bunch of kids.” Ouch! That seems uncharacteristically thoughtless of her.
Then Giles, feeling obsolete, decides to seek out Professor Walsh and give her unsolicited advice about how she shouldn’t push Buffy so hard academically because she’s an “independent girl.” Walsh pretty much schools him, which is satisfying, saying that Buffy clearly hasn’t been pushed enough academically (true), and that she’s an independent “woman” because she was pressured into adult roles too early. This is also true, and makes me kind of wish that Buffy had had a female mentor this whole time. But then, of course, Walsh goes all Freud on us and makes it about Buffy not having a “strong father figure.” UGH. I don’t really care about her insulting Giles, who was super rude and presumptuous in this interaction, but don’t stoop to his sexist level!
Then Giles gets all upset because no one told him that Riley is a commando, which is actually much more legit, but I’m so tired of him being upset that I don’t really care. He runs into his old enemy, Ethan Rayne, and is ready to beat him up so he can feel more masculine or whatever, but instead they go out and get drunk together. Ethan mentions that the demon whisper network is getting nervous about something called “314,” which has something to do with the Initiative “throwing the worlds off-balance.” Ethan makes a joke about poisoning his drink, then Giles wakes up the next morning and finds he’s been transformed into a demon.
He goes to Xander’s house first, thinking that he can explain what happened and get help. But although he thinks he’s speaking English, he’s speaking a demon language, so Xander throws things at him until he goes away. He runs into Spike, who happens to speak that specific demon language (just go with it), and agrees to help Giles for $200. They go off to find Ethan Rayne, because Giles doesn’t want to tell Buffy what happened for–reasons? Of course, Buffy already knows that something’s up, because a demon attacked Xander, Giles is missing, and demon-Giles decides to get his rocks off by chasing Professor Walsh down the street. Gross.
Giles loses Spike during a chase with the commandoes, and finds Ethan in a hotel. Buffy and Riley aren’t far behind, and Buffy gets in a fight with demon-Giles. She stabs him, but luckily he doesn’t die, and she realizes who he is in time to get Ethan to change him back. When he’s human again, she tells him she knew from his eyes, because he’s “the only person in the world who can look that annoyed with [her].” Aw. They make up in the end, although Giles still tells her to be cautious about her involvement with the Initiative. And he seems to be right–irrational hatred of Professor Walsh notwithstanding–since at the end of the episode, we see Professor Walsh go into a secret, sinister lab labeled “314.”
Notes from a New Fan:
- It’s tragic how Buffy feels awkward admitting how many demons she’s slain given Riley is bragging about 17. (Well, he pretends to be modest while actually bragging, which is even more embarrassing.)
- And then she STILL feels the need to downplay it once he realizes her achievements dwarf his. Ugh, patriarchy!
- Ugh, and Giles gets offended when the professor very subtly corrects his reference to Buffy as a “girl,” and passive-aggressively whines, “How wrong of me to choose my own words.” SIGH. Maybe it would work out better to choose your own words if you didn’t have sexist attitudes.
- Wtf does Giles mean by calling Professor Walsh a fishwife?! Whatever it is, I’m sure it’s offensive.
- Dictionary.com says “a coarse-mannered woman who is prone to shouting.” Wow, someone didn’t take kindly to being called out on his sexism in a very, very quiet voice and subtle manner.
- Oh and then Buffy has to apologize for kicking Riley’s ass when he said not to hold back. Boy, being a girl involves a lot of apologizing.
- And like, really Riley? She has superhuman strength and you aren’t sure if you could take her? You obviously can’t! She has an actual superpower and it is taking people!
- I laughed when Anya said, “I think it ate him up.” She’s kind of great.
- Ha, Spike helps Giles for $200.
- Good Lord, so now Giles scares Professor Walsh by chasing her down the street with his demon ass just because she didn’t treat him like a wise sage during their conversation but expressed opinions of her own? This episode should be called “A Cave Man,” not “A New Man.”
- “It’s not very sharp,” Riley observes of Buffy’s choice of silver weapon. “Then I’ll have to put some muscle behind it,” she responds coolly. Excellent retort–reminds him that she knows what she’s doing and she has more muscle to put behind a fight than he does.
- I love how Riley thinks he’s taking Buffy with him on his mission. Not the fastest learner, this kid.
- And then Giles gets Spike to be a decoy for the commandoes for another hundred dollars! Heh.
- Oh good the happy ending is a secret military detention center that people can be held without trial. Hooray for post-9/11 America.
Notes from a True Stan:
- Why does Riley go busting into the party with his crossbow? Did Willow really not tell Riley that he was part of a surprise party? Or is he just so dumb that he forgot?
- I get that Giles’ meeting with Riley was awkward, especially since he didn’t know Buffy was dating anyone, but wasn’t he at least a little flattered that Buffy was nervously introducing him like Giles was her father? I didn’t really get his discomfort about that particular interaction.
- LOVE how proud Riley is that he’s captured seventeen demons. Lol.
- “I’m not even sure I could take you,” Riley says, flabbergasted. He’s really not getting the Slayer concept, is he?
- Ew, Riley tells Buffy to go as hard as she can in their sparring session, and then gets all butthurt when she kicks him across the room? You literally asked for it!
- “I’m an unemployed librarian with a tendency to get knocked in the head.” Drunk Giles is so wise.
- “We’ll go slow,” Willow says seductively as she and Tara link hands for a spell. They’re really going for it with the magic-as-lesbian-sex metaphor, huh?
- Love that Willow says re: Riley, that Buffy can’t “go around pretending to be less than [she is].” What a good friend!
- It is sad that Buffy didn’t tell Giles about Riley being a commando, but her explanation also makes sense. Nerdy Spice and I come from a big family, and our parents and siblings often assumed that once a few people knew something, everyone did.
- Riley tries to tell Buffy that he has orders not to “take her along” when they find the demon, and Buffy says, “You’re not taking me. I’m going and I’m letting you come along.” YES.
- Riley marvels that Buffy is “strong, like Spiderman strong” (he knows there are woman superheroes, right?), and then says, “Give me a week, and I’ll take you down.” She’s a literal superhero! What about this do you not understand??
- After looking at Nerdy Spice’s comments, I’m thinking we might need a new section of these recaps titled “Riley being the worst.”