Welcome back to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch. This week we’re covering episodes 3 and 4 of season 1, respectively “The Witch” and “Teacher’s Pet”, wherein parenting is hard, and teenage boys are dumb. As always, these articles will contain spoilers for the entire series runs of Buffy and Angel, so if you haven’t seen them, proceed with caution. All other articles in this series can be found here. That being said, let’s dig in with Sarah, who is summarizing this week.
Buffy Season 1 Episode 3: The Witch
This episode starts off more light-hearted than episodes 1 and 2 did. Buffy is pursuing her life of normality, and is trying out for the cheerleading squad. Giles is displeased that she is pursuing something outside of her Slayer duties.
Cut to the witch’s attic. There are flowers and herbs hanging upside down from the rafters to dry and personal items with identification tags. Someone moves around in the darkness. The camera follows her to the cauldron. She waves a pendant on a chain over the brew, then pulls it back. She goes over to a rack and yanks off a doll hanging there by its neck on a wire. Creepy, no?
Over to the gym now, Buffy, Xander and Willow are talking in the gym about tryouts and Xander is entranced by all that is going on around him. Tryouts ensue. Cordelia is of course bitchy and the rest of the group is being introduced to Amy, who is the daughter of a former cheerleader of Sunnydale. The first girl to go up is clearly an elite, laker-girl level good performer and it seems like everyone else will have to try and beat that. However it all goes wrong when the girl’s pom-poms catch fire and burn her hands. Buffy is the one to react and get the fire put out, but she is unable to continue with the performance.
We move back to our friends in the library where we see them have one of the first meetings of the Scoobies where they discuss what could have happened in the gym. Giles goes into his theory man persona and explains:
Giles: “Spontaneous human combustion is, is rare, and, and scientifically unexplainable, but there have been cases for hundreds of years. Usually all that’s left is a pile of ashes.”
They all agree to look further into Amy and split off. Back over to Buffy’s house, where Buffy is trying to connect with her mom about the tryouts, but Joyce is distracted. Obviously dropping random platitudes in response to her telling about the accident, she then hurts Buffy’s feelings by saying she isn’t in trouble YET. After a little joke about shielding Buffy from a fertility statue (which Buffy looks at anyways), her mom blows Buffy off on wanting to train together by citing she is too busy with her gallery opening.
Back to the gym the next day, the rest of tryouts are going on. Amy is feeling immense pressure to make the squad, and she blows the cartwheel and crashes into Cordelia. Cordelia yelps as she falls and then quickly gets up. Cordelia is pissed, and chances are not looking good. Amy then shows Buffy her mom’s shrine in the hall, Catherine the Great. It’s revealed that cheerleading was her greatest moment, as the guy she married ran out on their family and she spent her life working and breaking her back. Amy is completely dejected that she can’t live up to her mom’s expectations and leaves. Willow comes over and reveals that nothing is fishy about Amy’s past. In fact, Amy and Willow used to hang out and gorge themselves on brownies.
Cut to the girls’ locker room, where you can hear showers going. The camera pans around a corner to Amy alone at her locker. She hears a noise and turns to look. Nothing. The showers keep dripping. Amy closes her locker and starts to go, but is surprised by Cordelia. Cordelia goes on a monologue about how cheering and being adored is her dream, and how Amy better not have ruined it for her. Amy is visibly shaken when Cordelia leaves.
Xander and Willow are walking down the hall, where Willow is trying to reassure Xander who is freaking over asking Buffy out. They see the list of cheer squad being posted. It’s a mob scene to try and see who makes it, as the happy and sad people make their way from the list. Cordelia breaks away, tells Amy she was lucky she made the team and flounces off. Xander, who thinks he is bringing back great news, informs them that Buffy is alternate one and Amy alternate three. Amy runs off and Buffy leaves to console her.
Cut to Amy’s house. The camera closes in on the brickwork outside of the attic. Cut inside the attic. Someone is casting spells with dolls. They say to accept the sacrifice of Cordelia. Back at Buffy’s house, Joyce is trying to cheer Buffy up by encouraging her to go out for the yearbook staff. Buffy declines, saying it isn’t really her thing like it was her mom’s. Her mom then insults her by saying whatever her thing was it got her kicked out of school and forced them to move to find a school that would take her. Buffy is undeniably hurt and leaves, and Joyce is angry at herself for insulting her.
The next day, Cordelia, who has made cheerleader, is out of it while walking down the hallways. She appears disoriented and unaware of her surroundings. Turns out the curse took her eyesight, while taking her driving test. Buffy saves her, but her eyes no longer have irises and are completely white.
The gang gets together to discuss what is going on. They come to the conclusion that the only one with motive strong enough is Amy. Giles thinks Amy’s a witch, but the only way to prove it is to form a potion and pour it on her — if her skin turns blue, she is a witch.
Buffy, Xander and Willow join forces to test this theory in chemistry class, and Giles is proven correct. Before they can revel in that discovery, everyone looks over at Lishanne, and sees her shaking her head violently. She turns towards the camera, and everyone sees that she no longer has a mouth. Everyone looks sufficiently freaked out including Amy, which casts doubt over if she knows what she is actually doing. They decide to go speak to Amy’s mother to see if she can cast some light on what is going on with her daughter.
Cut to Amy’s house. Amy comes home in a huff to find her mother on the couch watching TV. She tells her mother to write her history report. She is ranting that she should be on the team already and instead Buffy is sneaking bits of her hair. We see that Amy is holding an ID bracelet which Xander gave Buffy for good luck at the cheerleading tryouts – Buffy will be Amy’s next victim.
The next morning in Buffy’s room. It’s a bit of a mess. The camera pans through it and stops on Buffy still sleeping. The alarm clock goes off. She slaps it with her hand hard enough to smash it with her strength. It is clear though that something is off with Buffy, as her energy is reaching almost manic levels throughout the day. She also is not in control of her faculties as she actually admits that she is a vampire slayer, but it blows right over mom’s head.
Buffy: (cuts her off) Mom, you just don’t get it. And, believe me, you don’t want it. Y’know, there are just some things about being a Vampire Slayer that the older generation…
Joyce: A what?
Buffy: It’s a… long story.
Joyce: Buffy, are you feeling well?
We get to the school where Buffy is at rehearsals and it is clear that things are not going well. She is erratic and unable to control her actions flinging a girl into the wall. Buffy is now out, Amy is in as the next alternate cheerleader. Xander and Willow quickly get her out of there to Giles. It’s not good, and whatever spell Amy put on her is stealing her life force. They need to get and destroy Amy’s spellbook, so they split up, Giles and Buffy to Amy’s house and Xander and Willow to the gym to keep an eye on Amy.
At Amy’s house we see Amy’s mom on a couch consuming a plate of brownies, which when Buffy sees that, she puts 2 and 2 together realizing that Amy is in her mom. Her mom pulled a freaky friday with her daughter and stole her youth. Giles goes on a tear and finds all the creepy dolls she has been using for her spells. They gather up all the dolls, books and paraphernalia they need and head back to the science lab to counter all the spells.
Cut to the gym. The camera pans across the court, then back and across the cheerleaders, stopping on “Catherine”. She is clearly very happy to be there. Cut to Xander and Willow in the stands, watching “Amy.” We cut between Giles setting up the counter-spells and Catherine reveling in being back in the cheerleading fold. However she gets a flash of what is going on in the science lab and starts to get worried. After causing a pyramid collapse she takes off to the science lab. Willow and Xander try to waylay her but she advances past them, and then busts into the lab with an axe. Too late though as Giles has finished the spell and the body swap is done. She goes on an epic rant against her daughter and how she has ruined her life. Just before she goes to swing the axe at her daughter Buffy pops up feeling better than ever.
Catherine begins to cast a spell, summoning the forces of the damned to send Buffy to the dark place. However Buffy knocks a mirror loose and reflects the spell back onto Catherine, and she disappears. Willow and Xander bust in to save the day but it is all over. At the end it all goes back to normal and everyone that was affected by magic is cleared up. Amy is now living with her dad, who is on a major guilt trip. Amy has plans to become fat (as her mom is no longer around). The scene ends chillingly with them walking away from the mom’s cheerleading shrine. The camera closes in on the cheerleading trophy. Catherine’s eyes are looking out and she’s making muffled noises.
Sarah: So kicking right off the bat, this episode starts off having a much lighter feel to it. We get a glimpse into the kind of person Buffy was before vampires, and she is trying to get back to it. She was pretty, she was popular – and she is trying to regain some of that by going out for the cheerleading squad. The episode starts off with Giles understandably flustered that his charge is taking on this responsibility. They have some adorable banter that starts to fill out and define their relationship going forward.
Giles: You have a sacred birthright, Buffy. You were chosen to destroy vampires, not to… wave pom poms at people. And as the Watcher I forbid it.
Buffy: And you’ll be stopping me how?
Giles: Well, I… by appealing to your common sense, if such a creature exists.
Buffy: I will still have time to fight the forces of evil, okay? I just wanna have a life, I wanna do something normal. Something safe.
Well as Buffy will soon come to realize over the course of her life no matter what she tries to do, the supernatural will follow her like white on rice. Also, what are Sunnydale’s Cheerleading outfits? I don’t know what decade that was from, but nowhere in SoCal are you going to find cheerleaders in full woolen sweaters, because you would die by the time you shook those pom-poms for 5 min.
So even though this is only episode 3 this episode again ties the supernatural into real life topics. This episode addresses heavy parental pressure. We meet the character of Amy, who is shown to have a desire to be a cheerleader because it was so important to her mom. We also see Joyce putting pressure on Buffy to be more like her. We’ll address those as we move further on.
Ian: This being the first episode that wasn’t really part of the two-part pilot, you can definitely feel them trying to flesh out the characters more. It’s also the first episode where it was very clearly a “this supernatural threat is analogous to this real world problem.” “Parenting is difficult, and being parented is hard too” are in three different relationships here, starting with Giles as pseudo-Dad to Buffy. You said a little about the pressures being put on the kids, but I’d argue that that parental figures have it hard too. Well, Buffy’s parental figures.
Sarah: Joyce does have it hard. It was highlighted in that scene where she is trying to get her art opening set up. Really shows the difficulties in being a single mom working full time. It was actually a good reference on real life teens and why they act out during a divorce. You can tell Joyce wants to be a good parent and do the right things, but when you are only operating with half the information oftentimes you stick your foot in your mouth and make mistakes.
Ian: Catherine is generic Evil Witch Mom. Feels like a cliche now, right? But I think BtVS may have coined this particular trope (or at least, the part about it being her actual mom, rather than a stepmom). But Joyce is dealing with, from her perspective, an arsonist teen daughter, a major move, a new job, and a big event at said job. I think she can be forgiven for having a tough time. Shit, I’ve gotten old. I can see it from the parent perspective now.
Sarah: We both do, I like that we can appreciate both sides of the teen and the parent. Makes Joyce a better character in the long run. And to roll into your Giles point, I don’t think either one of them foresaw that relationship developing the way that they did. And spoilers here, I love that he had a different father type relationship with all of them. All 3 of the main Scoobies all had disappointing fathers and Giles provides what is lacking on all of their relationships.
Ian: And Giles doesn’t yet know that he’s going to be Father Scooby, he’s just, essentially, an English supernatural librarian with a rebellious teen who is the literal Chosen One to wrangle.
Sarah: We see a bit more of Xander and Willow’s personality this episode. We start to see that Willow is in love with Xander and is struggling to be the friend she has been and conceal her feelings from Xander. Xander is cheerfully oblivious to these emotions, as most boys in HS were blockheads. *Insert Lucy from Peanuts here- Xander you BLOCKHEAD* He is too busy pining after Buffy and giving her good luck bracelets to notice though. We also notice the trend that Willow has terrible fashion sense. She mixes a striped shirt with a sweater composed of geometric shapes that is truly off putting to the eye.
Ian: Gotta be honest, didn’t even notice the fashion choices of Willow here. Guess I’m just used to having her own funky style. That bracelet Xander gave Buffy was terrible, though.
Sarah: The effort was adorable, and you can tell he literally has NO CLUE how to even remotely court a girl, but it was so awful.
Buffy: “How sweet. Yours… always?”
Xander: “It came like that. Really. They all said that.”
Ian: Smooth, brother. And yeah, it’s fun/funny to see the early stages of Xandillow (Willder?).
Sarah: There is no good ship name for them, which is how you know nowadays they are not endgame.
Ian: Willow is so unsure of herself. Also, knowing how her relationships transition throughout the series, kind of uncomfortable. Of course, every stage she goes through is valid, but we’ll talk about that as we move through the series.
Sarah: It’s fun to notice even early on Joss was planting the seeds for either Xander or Willow to bat for the opposite team. Willow’s seeds were established later, honestly in the early episodes Xander was the one you thought might switch. The scene where Willow and Xander both notice Angel for the first time it is intriguing to see Xander notice how hot he is (which can be played off as incredulous jealousy) and Willow be totally oblivious to his looks. That could have been played off though as trying to make Xander feel like she didn’t see him as good looking to make him feel better. Plant those seeds Joss.
Sarah: Buffy is emerging in the scene with the fire to be quick thinking and calm under pressure. She is the only one who doesn’t stand there in shock. Really though, Amber, I mean come on when your hands are on fire is when you want to STOP waving them around. I love in the next scene we get to see Giles step a bit out of stuffy man persona, when he gets a little excited over Sunnydale being a “cornucopia of mystical activity”
Giles: “But that’s the thrill of living on the Hellmouth! (Sits on the edge of the table.) There’s a veritable cornucopia of, of fiends and devils and, and ghouls to engage. (Everyone looks at him.) Pardon me for finding the glass half full.”
We don’t know yet at this moment how unique it is for Buffy to have her “Slayerettes” (as Scoobies wasn’t a thing yet) on her side. Eventually we see that most slayers operate alone, but Xander and Willow once again step in to help investigate the mysterious combustion.
Ian: I was a little worried that we were going to get more of Xander being “The Zeppo” here already, but he jumped in to find something to do to help. I also loved his line when Buffy said she didn’t want to put them in danger.
Xander: “I laugh in the face of danger… then I hide until it goes away.”
Sarah: Xander, the man who wants to be a Gryffindor but is clearly a Hufflepuff at heart.
Sarah: Here is where the episode turns to parental pressure and mistakes. Buffy’s mom is 100% distracted and dropping random platitudes to Buffy when she tries to tell her that tryouts got cancelled. Buffy’s mom is so distracted she actually has no idea what Buffy was trying out for. You can tell though that Joyce stuck her foot in her mouth big time, by stating that she isn’t “in trouble yet” and then by blowing her off when she tries to broach talking about Amy’s mom practicing with her. Buffy is in an awkward place at this moment, because she can’t tell her mom about being a slayer, and wants to bond with her in any way she can, but she gets the brushoff. It makes it just that much harder to form a bond.
Ian: I talked about it a little bit already, but I can see both sides here. Joyce was definitely not the ubermom she later became though. Also, it’s funny seeing her try to protect her daughter from what is clearly a very large dicked fertility statue, knowing what we know about Buffy. When Buffy sneaks a peek at the statue, she clearly knows what’s up. This aired in ‘96. I’m sure if it was in today’s age, she would have added an “Ouch!” to her grimace.
Sarah: We see more parental pressure in the next scene when Amy completely blows her tryouts, and she feels like an utter failure for not living up to her mom’s legacy. Willow drops some insight into her mom being very much a controlling figure in Amy’s life, and also in her own. Classic case of mom unable to control circumstances in her own life so she controls every piece she can. She goes to change in the locker room but she is immediately verbally harassed by Cordelia. So here we start to get more layers to Cordelia’s bitchiness. She wants to be loved and admired by her peers and will stomp on anyone who comes in between that dream she has.
Ian: Gotta remember though that this isn’t Amy blowing her chance to be like her mom. It’s her mom blowing her chance to be great again. I’m really looking forward to Cordy being less of a one-note bitch, but you’re right, this was the first teeny tiny baby step in that direction. She admits insecurity, even though I don’t think she even noticed that she did so.
Sarah: Looking back at this scene this was a tiny hint that Amy wasn’t really Amy. She did a good job at first playing off the insecure nice girl in hero worship of her mom. But the line “I can’t get my body to move like hers!” was the frustration of Catherine that her daughters body wouldn’t behave the ways hers had.
Sarah: So this next scene, props to Alyson for face acting in this scene. This is where we start to see the crush she has in full. Xander doesn’t want to talk shop, he wants to know if Buffy is wearing the bracelet he bought her. She tries to tease by saying it’s totally like going out only with no benefits and she has no clue. When she tells him he will never have an answer unless he nuts up and asks her out, she does a phenomenal job of looking crushed when Xander calls her a guy. And later in the episode Xander is about to man up and ask Buffy out and Willow is both wanting to be encouraging and yet try to stop him from asking her out by telling him “beat around the bush more”. You feel for Willow in these scenes.
Xander: “That’s why you’re so cool! You’re like a guy! You’re my guy friend that knows about girl stuff!”
Willow: “Oh, great. I’m a guy.”
In her mind it’s total reinforcement that no matter what she isn’t seen that way by him and to be in that position for years is demoralizing to your heart.
Ian: I like that Xander gets a little taste of his own clueless medicine later in the episode when Buffy is spell-drunk and talks about how she likes him because he’s basically one of the girls. And Buffy, even spell-drunk, I think she knew what she was doing there.
Buffy: “Any other guy got me a bracelet, he’d want to ask me out…”
Sarah: It was both a compliment to Xander coming off as a nice guy, and also unintentionally or intentionally slamming the door on Xander wanting to ask her out. Which may be why in the next episode he lashes out at her for being attracted to Miss French. His reaction was almost like well you had your chance with me you shut the door now don’t be jealous I have moved on.
Sarah: So the next scene when the list gets posted on who made it man that took me straight back to high school. It was so humiliating to be the one who didn’t make it and the whole school could see it. Buffy is upset, but not nearly as upset as Amy. Although Xander is fairly adorable in his cluelessness in what being an alternate means. We start to see his penchant for deflecting awkward situations with humor take form.
Xander: For I am Xander, King of Cretins. May all lesser cretins bow before me.
Ian: I remember both the thrill of being accepted on those lists and the humiliation of… not. I guess it was too early in the internet age to hope acceptance or rejection could have been sent to private email? I also wonder, as the series progressed, how much of Xander was based on Nick Brendon? He’s so charming and funny, it’s hard to believe he wouldn’t have been a popular guy.
Sarah: Some of this you have to wonder as Xander’s family history gets revealed that the reason he isn’t more popular is because he is from the wrong side of the city so to speak. Even the funny charming guys have a hard time breaking the poor trailer trash stigma. Think of him in comparison to Shawn Hunter from boy meets world. Very similar characters in the style they were written.
Sarah: So jumping from that we once again see Joyce trying to encourage Buffy at this point. Buffy’s mom is shown to be caring but at times judgmental. She has valid concerns as a parent whose child has screwed up, but she lashes out whenever Buffy doesn’t go along with her plans and keeps throwing her mistake in her face. As a child that can be an incredibly hard burden to bear because no one is perfect and the expectation of it is wearing on a person. She tries to get Buffy to join yearbook club, which is what she did when she was in high school and gets weirdly offended when Buffy doesn’t seem like she’s interested.
It feels like Joss is a bit unsure of Joyce’s role at this point in the series. Buffy, as a teenager, obviously needs a parent on the show, but she spends so little of her life in the home sphere that scenes with Joyce don’t gel. Perhaps this is intentionally done though, because Joyce is part of the normal life that Buffy doesn’t know how to have and connect with anymore. Giles right now is where her bond is growing with because he is the adult in her life who knows who she is and she doesn’t have to hide or tiptoe around. Despite this, Kristine Sutherland has a warmth to the role, and you can see where Buffy gets some of her self deprecating one liners from. The show will and does get better at developing this relationship.
Ian: Agreed. I like your take on her not being part of Buffy’s day-to-day because of, you know, slayerness. I also like that after Joyce finds out, her character grows to the point that made “The Body” such a brilliant, affecting episode.
Sarah: Future tears will be coming when we finally get to that episode.
Sarah: So I want to dive into the mom of Amy a little bit. Even though she is the villain of this piece Joss did a great job of making her problems relatable and understandable. She is a great representation of that person who shined bright in High School but life didn’t live up to the promise. For some people, the need to recapture those moments where they were the star can make them do extreme things. It’s why we see so many mid life crisis. Sadly it often manifests into resentment to families and children because they need someone other than themselves to blame. Joss is brilliant and making even a one off character like this layered is awesome. At the end of this episode does a great job of making all of us think…….. Would we truly want to be 16 again and do it all over again if we knew what we knew now? A deep thought for a teenage show.
Ian: I would absolutely teleport my current brain to my 16 year old self. Not that High School was the highlight of my life or anything, I just think it would be amazing to have the confidence, skills, and experience of my current self in my younger, pain-free 90s body. I’d be a millionaire before I hit 20.
Sarah: High school was definitely not a highlight. I would have made some different choices for sure, like swapping out iced tea for nestea and vegetables for the many oreos I ate. I also would have made a killing joining all those fantasy sports leagues I scoffed at back in the day.
Ian: This episode was also our introduction to Amy, who, even though she’s only on a handful more episodes throughout the series (as a human – lots of episodes as a rat) has a major effect on Willow especially.
Sarah: Season 6 will come a calling and the dark side comes a knocking, knocking at willow’s door.
Buffy Season 1 Episode 4: Teacher’s Pet
What Happens: I’m gonna try to make this recap a little more condensed.
We kick off this episode in what seems like a normal fashion, showing Buffy is at the Bronze, fighting vampires. One is about to bite her when Xander comes along and knocks the vampire aside. Not where you thought it was going am I right? Buffy is super grateful and almost worshipping Xander. Xander jumps onstage and begins playing the guitar while Buffy watches in awe. If you’re confused, never fear because Xander wakes up abruptly. He was having a good old fashioned daydream in science class. Dr. Gregory (the teacher) is talking about the way ants communicate. He calls on Buffy, but she doesn’t know the answer. Dr. Gregory asks her to stay after class. He says he has seen her file, but he still expects good things from her in class because she thinks on her feet and exhibits good problem solving capability, if she just focuses in on the homework. Buffy is happy he believes in her. After she leaves, the professor is sitting at his desk when something comes up behind him and a claw-like appendage grabs him.
At the Bronze that night, Xander is being teased by his friend Blayne, who asks how many times Xander has “scored.” Xander is glad when Buffy and Willow come in so he can use them to prove his manliness to his friends. Willow is eager to help, Buffy is distracted. Buffy notices that Angel is standing by the door and goes over to talk to him. This is the first time that Willow and Xander have seen Angel, and Xander is not pleased. Buffy asks if he has any more cryptic pronouncements to make before vanishing into the night. Angel says she’s cold. Leads to a good confusion exchange between Buffy and Angel.
Angel: “You’re cold.”
Buffy: “You can take it.”
Angel: (takes off his jacket) “I mean, you look cold.”
True to Buffy’s statement though he gives her a cryptic warning about a Vampire with “forks” for a hand and vanishes.
Buffy tells Giles about Angel’s comments, and he cautions her to remain on guard. Xander comes by to tell Buffy and Willow that Dr. Gregory has gone missing, and Buffy is upset about this. Xander sees an attractive young woman coming up the walk and becomes seriously smitten. When she stops and asks him if he can tell her where Science 109 is, he goes totally blank and starts stuttering randomly. Blayne comes up and says he will take her there himself. They walk off together.
Xander: “It’s funny how the earth never opens up and swallows you when you want it to.”
No it doesn’t Xander, but HS humiliation lives forever.
In science class, Buffy finds Dr. Gregory’s glasses on the floor and puts them on the desk, but she is confused as to why he wouldn’t pick up the glasses he dropped. The young woman introduces herself as Natalie French and says she is substituting for Dr. Gregory. She begins telling them about the praying mantis, but in a very creepy and romantic way, and the bad vibes from her are strong at this point. At lunch, Xander first gets teased by Willow and Buffy for an older woman being into younger men. Then it’s for being chosen second to help Ms. French after school – Blayne was chosen first – and Xander claps back with “Guess it’s what they call a rehearsal!” Cordelia comes in to get her special lunch from the refrigerator and screams when she sees a headless body there. The name on the coat is Dr. Gregory.
Giles talks to Buffy, Willow and Xander about Dr. Gregory. Buffy says they will find whoever did this. Xander has the right question: where the hell is the head?? Buffy says Angel warned her about “something” coming, and Giles remembers that a homeless man was shredded in the park a few nights ago. Similar, however Dr. Gregory was only beheaded. Buffy wants to know where exactly the homeless man was found, and Giles warns her not to go out hunting until they learn more about the mysterious creature. Like she is going to listen though.
That night Buffy goes to Weatherly Park, where the body of a homeless man was found. She finds a hidden tunnel, but just as she is about to go in, a vampire with long, knife-like claws attacks her. They start to fight, but get interrupted by a police patrol, and the vampire runs off. Buffy chases it, over a fence, it goes and jumps down behind a woman walking along carrying grocery sacks. She turns around, and weirdly it’s Ms. French. The vampire hisses and runs in the other direction, which to Buffy is not normal, for what Vampire fears an ordinary human?
Buffy tells Giles about the vampire and the fact that Ms. French frightened it away with just a look. Giles says they must keep an eye on her, because an undead monster with knives for hands should not be running from a substitute teacher. Buffy comes to class late because Principal Flutie had insisted that all students who witnessed the dead body see a counselor. Buffy looks in the door and sees Ms. French’s head do a 180 degree turn. Buffy later tells Giles that Ms. French cannot be human, but suspects she is an insect. She willingly goes home to do homework and find out what kind of insect.
Xander comes to Ms. French’s room after school, just as she is fixing a snack. She asks if he would mind doing the project at her house that night and gives him her address (Danger Will Robinson, Danger). He stutters out that he’ll be there and leaves. She goes back to her sandwich, which is made of live bugs. (Def an insect.)
Buffy discovers that the praying mantis is the only insect that can rotate its head 180 degrees. Who was shocked by that revelation, considering Ms. French’s liking for the mantis? Giles remembers a colleague of his who had theorized about insect mutations. Willow finds out that Blayne didn’t make it home the night before by illegally monitoring the office alerts. Buffy goes to warn Xander about Ms. French, thinking he had already had his meeting with her. She tells Xander that Ms. French is not human. Xander reacts badly and tells her that Buffy must be jealous and defends Ms. French. He leaves, but Buffy assumes he’s going home. When Xander arrives at Ms. French’s house, she meets him at the door in a way inappropriate dress and hands him a martini.
Total cougar sexual predator in this instance. She wants to know if he’s ever been with a woman. He stammers a bit, trying to be cool and suave, but says no. She says she knew it, which is just creepy. Can bugs smell that? He begins to feel woozy, (drugged Martini?) and sees her hands turning into insect claws just before he passes out. She drags him away. Xander wakes up in a cage in the basement, not a good spot for our Xander. He sees a giant praying mantis arranging some egg sacs. Xander sees that Blayne is in the cage next to him. Blayne says he saw her mate with someone else and bite the person’s head off during the act. So I guess Xander now knows what happened to his teachers head.
Giles consults with his colleague, now in a mental institution in England, and tells Buffy and Willow that Ms. French is undoubtedly a She-mantis. They lure virgin boys to their lair (Willow’s reaction is priceless here) mate with them, then kill them by biting their heads off. Willow calls Xander and learns that he has gone to his teacher’s house to work on a science project. Buffy tells Willow to try and find Ms. French’s address. Giles records bat sonar, which will affect the praying mantis’ nervous system, as a way to trap it. Buffy, Willow, and Giles go to the address in Ms. French’s file. They meet Ms. French — the real Ms. French, who is in her eighties. They realize they now have no way to find the She-mantis. Time for Plan B.
The She-mantis comes to Xander and Blayne’s cages and begins, “Eeny, meeny, miny, mo” to choose which one of them gets to go first. Xander volunteers to be first. He gets out and kicks the She-mantis and tries to run up the stairs. But the She-mantis grabs his ankle and pulls him back. Buffy goes into the sewers and locates the clawed vampire. She proceeds to “persuade” him to be helpful and uses him as a finder until he indicates that they have found the She-mantis. The vampire breaks free and tries to kill Buffy, but she stakes him with a fence post. Silly Vampire.
The She-mantis is about to mate with Xander when a window breaks and Buffy jumps down into the basement, followed by Willow and Giles. Buffy sprays insect repellent at the She-mantis while Willow and Giles free Xander and Blayne. Buffy pushes the play button on the recorder, but only hears Giles speaking.”It’s the wrong side!” (Hahaha on 90s tech.) The She-mantis knocks the recorder out of Buffy’s hand. They fight while Giles gets the recorder. He plays the right side, disorienting the She-mantis so that Buffy can kill it. Xander says Buffy was right, and he and Blayne thank all of them for coming to the rescue. Not sure how Blayne is not asking ANY QUESTIONS on what he just went through.
Willow, with the unknowing dig, says it was so unfair how she only went after virgins, and here they were trying to do the right thing. Blayne and Xander both are indignant and deny it.
Willow: “I think it’s sweet (Xander picks up a machete) and certainly nothing I’ll ever bring up again.”
Xander takes the machete and destroys the eggs. Way to prove your manliness Xander.
Buffy is at the Bronze when Angel comes up and says he heard a rumor that there’s one less vampire walking around. Fork Vamp indeed is dust in the wind. Buffy offers to return his jacket, but he says it looks better on her. You old flirt. The new science teacher announces a term paper. Buffy picks up Dr. Gregory’s glasses and puts them in his coat, which is still hanging in the closet. As she closes the door, the camera pans down to a clutch of eggs hanging on the last shelf. Oooo… intrigue!
Sarah: Ok first off the bat, check out all the velvet clothing! Possibly one of the most 90s fashion episodes of the first season. We see all the goodies, from classic shiny, soft jumpers worn by both Xander and this week’s bait, Blaine. Willow also gets a look in on the velvety action at The Bronze whilst Buffy opts for a 60s style mini-dress and Angel’s leather jacket. Pretty sure Angel was in a wife beater which was the boys’ 90s go to shirt. Anyways there’s the fashion report for the episode let’s move on.
Ian: Also, and I’m gonna harp on them pretty much every time, but wow with the ultra 90’s band, too. Guitars slung way below the belt, baggy jeans, shiny shirt, and one of the more egregious butt-cuts I’ve ever seen.
Sarah: I will say out of shows that featured bands in many of the episodes Charmed and P3 was far superior in not being so 90s about it. We need you Seth Green to save us.
Sarah: So to tie in themes from real life to the supernatural this week focuses around peer pressure and jealousy. This week Xander is getting his first prominent storyline, and for watchers of the series the recurring joke is that Xander is attractive to demons. Even though he is the comic relief of the show through the series, this helped give him layers. Xander is wildly insecure and hides it through jokes and false bravado. He brags about things he’s not comfortable with to try and fit in, and when he is still rejected you can see it eats away at him. In his daydream that opens the show you can see he has a desire to be a hero, and get the girl in his fairy tale ending. When you’re crushing on a girl with superpowers it can feed into those feelings of not being good enough, and it is a little crushing to one’s masculinity.
Ian: The other analogy that I saw, maybe it was more obvious to me because I’m male, was that teenage boys are incredibly stupid when it comes to attractive women. Xander is still unrequitedly crushing on Buffy while Willow does the same about him, and then as soon as another woman (I was amused by you describing her as a “young lady”, I would put her late 30s, early 40s) shows the slightest interest in him, he goes all in, and even becomes kind of a dick about it.
Sarah: A difference between now and then, 30s still feel young in today’s world. Look at the difference between then and now, most 30 year olds today honestly are living a financial/housing situation of a 20 year old. So…. yeah it feels like a younger woman walking up to us. Xander is very much a “hit on what’s in front of me” type of guy right now. Buffy I think he knows based off the last episode is a bit of a closed door right now, but he will strike if he sees an opportunity. Plus going off of last week’s episode, after Buffy praises him for NOT asking her out after the bracelet, his feelings may be a little stung. When Buffy tries to warn him at the end about her, he gets snappy in response, and kind of gives a “you had your moment to take me, so don’t be butthurt if I moved on.”
Xander: It doesn’t sound weird at all, I completely understand. I’ve met someone, and you’re jealous.
Xander: Look, there’s nothing I can do about it. Uh, there’s just this certain chemical thing between Miss French and me. She’s not an insect! She’s a woman, okay? And hard as that may be for you to conceive, an actual woman finds me attractive. I realize it’s no mystery guy handing out leather jackets, and while we’re on the subject, what kind of a girlie name is “Angel” anyway?
Someone is DEF jealous in this scenario and it isn’t Buffy. Xander has fallen into the trap we all fall into at some point, trying to make our crush jealous by dating someone else.
Sarah: Even though Xander is in the spotlight this week, Buffy has a connection that she desperately needed with the science teacher this week. Finally someone at her new school has been willing to look beyond what happened and give her the benefit of the doubt that she isn’t a screw up. So, of course, he is the one who dies because Buffy cannot have anything good in her life.
Ian: I had totally forgotten that Dr. Gregory existed, which makes sense because he had about 3 minutes of screen time, total, but that made me sad. Poor Buffy. Poor Dr. Gregory, too, I guess. Are we meant to believe he was a virgin? She-mantis only goes for virgins, and he clearly had his head eaten off by her, which was before Blayne went missing, So we also have an unknown virgin victim that Blayne saw get rape-murdered.
Sarah: I am wondering if killing him was more strategic? Maybe she was wanting to get placed into the school to have her picks of young males to use for fertilization? Joss never really made it clear, but I would find it hard to believe that he was….. Though they did make 40-year-old virgin for a reason.
Sarah: The scenes at the Bronze in the next part is where we see Xander struggling to fit in. Your typical jocks are bragging about their conquests and they start questioning Xander’s prowess after an off hand joke. Bless Willow in this scene for being more than willing to step in and be the girl on his arm to boost his man-card points. We see the high of Xander here thinking he is scoring some brownie points, and we start to see one of his more negative traits come out as well. We get to see Willow and Xander’s reaction to Buffy and Angel and it isn’t great from Xander’s POV. He is completely offended Buffy never mentioned how hot Angel was, and is in disbelief that Angel gives her his leather jacket.
Xander: “Oh, right! Give her your jacket. It’s a balmy night, no one needs to be trading clothing out there!”
It’s a petty reaction to a guy who sees his potential competition and he isn’t happy. This is a recurring theme later with Xander regarding Angel.
Ian: Also understandable from Xander’s viewpoint. He’s inexplicably got this in with the gorgeous, cool, funny, new girl who’s also a superhero. He thinks he has a chance. Then he sees “the guy she told you not to worry about” and realizes that not only is he not in their league, they’re playing a different sport. But yes, the immediate petty jealousy is not a good cliche to live in, and at this point in time, feels a little proto-incel.
Sarah: When your insecurities are running rampant already it is a particularly tough blow to see her undeniable chemistry with another guy. For the most part he can deal with it ok, but we do see later in the series it unfortunately flares up at the worst time.
Sarah: Xander, for all his obsessing about Buffy, doesn’t let that stop him from pursuing anything remotely attractive that he can. When the sub for the missing teacher shows up he is immediately smitten. In an episode where Xander feels his manhood questioned, the creepy substitute with her predatory shoulderpads (thanks Willow for that astute observation) steps in to build him up and make him feel wanted. To an insecure teenager this kind of attention is highly craved. And it plays into a plot used a lot, the student/teacher fantasy. This has long been a dream of teenage boys on screen, particularly in the 90s. It crops up a few times on shows then, such as the first season of Dawson’s Creek with Pacey and his English teacher. This aired on the same network as Buffy, and Joss did a better job I think of showing the scary situation that can occur when an adult abuses their power over students. Remove the supernatural aside, the human things she does like drugging and kidnapping for sex can happen to anyone. Fantasies can be harmless fun, but beware what you wish for.
Sarah: One of the moments that stood out to me is that when Cordelia finds the body of the science teacher in the lunchroom…… I know it was done for dramatic effect but seriously? Was she the ONLY one who used that refrigerator for her “special lunch” You would think that in a cafeteria for a big and busy HS that body would have been discovered way before Cordelia’s lunch time. This could have been a way Joss was slowly starting to incorporate Cordelia into the fold….. Or just cheesy drama from a main character.
Sarah: Another thing that struck me in this episode was how little of a budget they had in the beginning. Recreating a giant praying mantis for this episode must have eaten up the budget for that episode. Both vampires we see staked this episode don’t do the traditional dusting or even the dust noise. Both Vampires we just hear thud to the ground, which destroys a little bit of the continuity. Prior, even if they dust off screen, we usually hear it. Also, notice the stake in Xander’s dream which isn’t so much aiming for the heart as it is the appendix. Luckily this doesn’t appear to be the norm overall and we can chalk it up to establishing budgets lol. And to revisit the 90-est episode of the series so far the use of the walkman for bat sonar was amazing. I love that they were almost thwarted by the fact that Giles cannot correctly put the tape in to play on the right side. Totally took me back to elementary school on the playground putting in a tape and bursting out to sing along…. To the totally wrong side. Damn you side B!
Sarah: So last thing about this episode I SWEAR. one of the smaller plots to start getting established is the relationship of Buffy and Angel. Very minor interactions so far but their chemistry is very noticeable. Watching it develop will become a key point for the entire series. Overall a fun, if filler episode, just like Episode 3. The dynamics between the four main characters is great, we really start to see them falling into a great rhythm with each other. I really enjoy the library scenes in which Giles is technophobic, Buffy actually does some homework and Willow displays some early computer hacking skills. The research scenes will quickly become a staple of Buffy episode and it’s fun to see the trope developing early. Till next time, Super out.