Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Buffy Rewatch Week 2 Spoiler Forum

Welcome to this week's spoiler forum for the rewatchers; post here if you'd like to talk about this week's episodes in a context of future episodes:

1.4 Teacher's Pet
1.5 Never Kill a Boy on the First Date
1.6 The Pack

First, rather than put my spoiler comments in white, I've decided this is a better home for them. Go here first to read the full rewatch post (only spoilery stuff is here; everything else is in the other post). And my brief comments will be followed by the uncensored version of David Lavery's post from this week. (I've put his credentials in non-spoiler post above.)

Spoilery bits:
• “Never Kill a Boy”: I howled when Giles popped up from the tombstone and immediately began reading off his criticisms (“it should be plunge and move on, plunge and move on!”). It’s the very kind of behaviour he’ll later roll his eyes at Wesley (my beloved Wesley) for doing, and he’ll tell off the Watcher’s Council for being so damn stuffy.
• The Master slams the book shut and says, “Here endeth the lesson,” a line that will be remembered by Buffy fans more as the way Spike ends his backstory in “Fool for Love” when he tells Buffy all about who he really was.
• Cordy’s line, “Hel-LO, salty goodness!” will later be used in the Angel episode, “Spin the Bottle,” when everyone reverts back to their 17-year-old selves and she once again sees Angel for the first time.
• David Lavery makes this same point in his essay below, but I also wondered why Buffy seems like a bit of a dullard in the library, and yet in S4 she’ll be making references to William S. Burroughs.

“Can I just say one thing? HEEEELLLLP! HEEEELLLLP!”
— Xander to Mrs. French (the she-mantis) in “Teacher’s Pet”

When the episodes I’ve just rewatched originally aired, I was paying no attention. (You can read a brief account of my “coming-to-Buffy” in Season 4 experience here.) Nor have I ever been a big fan of BtVS S1. I have even been known to discourage potential future adherents to skip the entire season and begin their Buffy immersion with S2 (in the hope such a navigation of the verse would more likely lead to love/addiction).

My critical opinion of two of my three rewatchables was, nevertheless, high: I’ve long considered “Never” and “Pack” among the strongest from Buffy’s rookie season. “Teacher’s Pet,” on the other hand, I had filed away in my memory as a BBF (Buffy Bottom Feeder), an episode every bit as lame as, say, “Inca Mummy Girl” or “Beer Bad.” (I know, I know: judging television episodes is an exercise in critical relativity, and the worst Buffy may still be pretty good television.) I am happy to report that while “Never” and “Pack” remain worthy, “Pet” has improved with age.

That Joss Whedon half-expected Buffy to be canceled after only one season is well known. The series’ signature “flexi-narrative” formula (the term is Robin Nelson’s) — one season = the struggle with and defeat of a singular Big Bad, punctuated with “Monster of the Week” episodes — was a fortunate side-effect. Like most initial seasons of long-running series, Season 1 BtVS shows Whedon and company uncertain about a number of other matters as well, still calibrating, if you will, its most basic assumptions. In my three episodes the calibration is almost audible.

For example, Buffy’s Summers’ IQ is still in doubt. Though her verbal kicks are as quick and accurate as her physical ones, the young woman who will later earn an SAT score good enough to gain admission to Northwestern does not always seem the sharpest tool in the shed. Consider the entrance of Owen Thurman into the library in “Never”:

Owen: I lost my Emily. Dickinson. It's dumb, but I like her around. Kind of a security blanket.
Buffy: (awkwardly) I have something like that. Well, it's an actual blanket. Uh, and I don't really carry it around anymore . . . So! Emily Dickens, huh? She's great!
Owen: Dickinson.
Buffy: She's good also.

Even allowing for her smittenness with Owen’s Owenocity in this scene, this level of dumb seems incompatible with the intelligence Buffy exhibits in her smack down of a vamp in the episode’s teaser:

We haven't been properly introduced. (pulls out a stake) I'm Buffy, and you're history!

or later in the same episode in the following exchange with her Watcher:

Giles: If your identity as the Slayer is revealed it could put you and all those around you in grave danger.
Buffy: Well, in that case I won't wear my button that says, “I'm a Slayer. Ask me how!”

Nor have Whedon and Company, or David Boreanaz for that matter (who shows little evidence of acting ability until Season 2), yet figured out Angel. Though it is abundantly clear (as Xander notes in “Pet”) that he is “a very attractive man,” radiating “salty goodness” (Cordelia in “Never”), it is by no means certain yet that he is a hero. Angel in my rewatchables reminded me — nota bene: odd comparison ahead — of Kramer in the first two partial seasons of Seinfeld — before Seinfeld, David, and Richards realized the character’s potential as a “hipster doofus.”

Nor is the continuity precisely calibrated yet. When Giles tells his charge (in “Never”) that he always wanted to be a fighter pilot, the confession seems a bit odd coming from the Ripper of “The Dark Age,” and his insistence that he has no instruction manual is of course contradicted by Kendra’s knowledge of one (“What’s My Line,” Parts I and II). And what’s with the vampire look? All vampires at this point seem to be Master lookalikes. Later, John Vulich and company will go lighter on the latex.

On the other hand, Xander and Cordelia are already fully and completely themselves. It is revealing, is it not, that two of my three rewatchables (“Pet,” “Pack”) — from the middle of Season 1 — are Xandercentric. I suspect so much Xander so early in BtVS reflects a great deal of comfort in the writers room with both Mr. Harris and Nicholas Brendon’s portrayal of him.

I had entirely forgotten till this rewatch that “Pet” begins with a “Superstary” dream sequence in which, like Jonathan Levinson in Season 4, our beloved Zeppo takes over the narrative and becomes the Slayer’s savior, kicking a vampire’s butt, and then, in a “Restlessy” moment mounting the stage in the Bronze to perform. (When Buffy awakes him from his biology class nap with the words “You're drooling,” the omniscient among us can’t help but flash forward to Buffy’s own “minimal drool” in “Hush.”)

If Brendon excels as dream-Xander, he shines as well as the virgin about to be the recipient of Mrs. French’s eggs in the final scene of “Pet” and, even more significantly, as the Hyena-possessed bad boy of “The Pack.” (Like Boreanaz, the dark side serves for Brendon as a performance enhancer.) I find “The Pack” difficult to watch, genuinely scary.

And what are we to say about Charisma Carpenter’s role as the poster child for meanness? Consider her Principal Flutie ordered (“Heal!” “Heel!”) meeting with a grief counselor (after finding Dr. Gregory’s corpse):

I don't know what to say, it was really, I mean, one minute you're in your normal life, and then who's in the fridge? It really gets to you, a thing like that. It was . . . let's just say I haven't been able to eat a thing since yesterday. I think I lost, like, seven and a half ounces? Way swifter than that so-called diet that quack put me on. Oh, I'm not saying that we should kill a teacher every day just so I can lose weight, I'm just saying bright side. You know?

I am sure I am not alone in identifying this kind of black humor one of the things I love most about Buffy and no one brings it better than Queen C.

Giles, too, with the exception of his possibly inconsistent backstory, is recognizably Giles. Consider, for example, this wonderful exchange with Buffy in “Never”:

Giles: Alright, I-I'll just jump in my time machine, go back to the twelfth century and ask the vampires to postpone their ancient prophecy for a few days while you take in dinner and a show.
Buffy: Okay, at this point you're abusing sarcasm.

Gilesish to the max.

Thanks to this rewatch I don’t think I will be recommending “go directly to Season 2” in the future. “Teacher’s Pet,” “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date,” and “The Pack” may not be my favortist Buffys, but they remain inescapable — like puberty.

Miscellaneous Notes, Queries, and Observations
• Buffy will give us several mean teachers over its run, but “Pet” give us perhaps its nicest, Dr. Gregory (“one of the few teachers who don’t think Buffy’s a felon”—as Willow observes) and then, in classic Whedon fashion, immediately kills him. It will come as no surprise in “The Prom” (3.20).
• Will we ever again see Xander as one of the girls (as he is in “Never”)? Take note, in a further act of emasculation, Xander (in the epilogue of “Never”) sips on a juice box in a very Andrew-like manner.
• In her attempted extrication from Owen’s interest in the life of danger at the end of “Never,” Buffy insists “It’s not you, it’s me.” Has Buffy been watching Seinfeld and fallen under the influence of George Costanza?
• In “Never,” we get the following exact duplication of lines (both, of course, describing Buffy):
Giles: She is the strangest girl!
Owen: (to Angel) She's the strangest girl!
• In case you did not know: Musetta Vander, the South African actress who plays Natalie French in “Pet,” would later play one of the Sirens in Joel and Ethan Coen’s O Brother Where Art Thou? (Nikki note: She also played an Amazon on Xena among many other small roles in genre TV.)
• I had forgotten that key School of Whedonite David Greenwalt (an essential Angel contributor as well) wrote “Pet.”
• When the vampire (with a giant claw) runs in terror from Natalie French, did anyone else hear?
• Xander: Generally speaking, when scary things get scared: not good. (“Dead Man’s Party,” 3.2)
• In “Restless” (4.22), Xander tells Apocalypse-Now-Principal-Snyder “how glad I was you were eaten by a snake.” On the other hand, I was really, really sorry to see Flutie eaten by The Pack. Wonderful character, played by Ken Lerner, the brother of Michael Lerner, the actor (yes, another Coen Bros. reference) who gave us mogul Jack Lipnick in Barton Fink.
• Some very nice indie music at the Bronze in all three episodes — a Buffy trademark.
• Perhaps it’s just me, but I would lose the “to be continued” ending of “Pet.”
• Television directors tend to be invisible. (Whedon would not himself direct an episode until the Season 1 finale, “Prophecy Girl.”) Two of my three episodes were directed by Bruce Seth Green, a twenty year industry veteran, who came to Buffy with an impressive resume that included assignments on the following TV series: Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, American Gothic, Xena: Warrior Princess, Babylon 5, Law & Order, I'll Fly Away, Swamp Thing, Doogie Howser, M.D., Baywatch, MacGyver, T.J. Hooker, V, Knight Rider, Magnum, P.I. After Season Two (in which Green helmed “Some Assembly Required,” “Nightmares,” “Halloween,” “The Dark Age,” “Ted,” and “Phases”), he would never work for the series again.
• On the DVDs, activation of each episode is accompanied by a Buffy witticism. When you play “Pet,” Buffy announces “We’re talking full-on Exorcist twist.” With “Never” we hear “If the apocalypse comes, beep me.” Nice.


redeem147 said...

IF Spike actually told Buffy his back story. But we can discuss that when we get to Fool For Love. ;)

redeem147 said...

I also wanted to discuss the attempted rape and how it is played more for humour in this episode than what will come in Seeing Red. It's a little horrifying that Xander just sees it as something embarrassing. And isn't he being a hypocrite later in season six?

helfron said...

Musings on “Teachers Pet”

Monster of the week: the substitute teacher, Miss French (Musetta Vander), is actually a She-Mantis who assumes the form of a beautiful woman (a siren) and lures male virgins to her lair, mates with them and, in the process, beheads them. It’s a Greek tragedy?

Playing with Genre: Buffy does the beast assumes the form of a human motif. Buffy does the I’ve got a thing for my teacher motif.

Mise-en-scene: Miss French wears praying mantis green fingernail polish. Mr. Gregory’s (William Monaghan) glasses make three important appearances: the actor is cleaning them in the scene in which he talks to Buffy about her academic potential, they fall on the floor and crack after he is killed by something we are not shown (classic horror technique a la Lewton/Tourneur), and when Buffy picks them up and puts them in the pocket of Mr. Gregory’s white science coat pocket at the end of the episode. I love it how Whedon and Company, like a lot of thoughtful filmmakers, give meaning to objects. Giles’s office is full of dark woods (old world architecture). On the shelf is a statue of Shiva.

Clothes: Buffy is in tight pants
and blouse. Willow is feminised and sexualized through her make-up, clothing, and hair.

Sound: Love the sound of crunchy crickets as Miss French eats her cricket sandwich for lunch.

Cinematography: Interesting slow motion, from Xander’s point of view (?) as Miss French, walks up the walkway to Sunnydale High. Xander has sex on his mind.

Character. There is tons of character information and development in this episode. Once again what seems like a stand-alone episode is only a stand-alone in part. Buffy is clearly infatuated with Angel. As Mr. Gregory recognizes and as this episode shows, Buffy is not dumb. Buffy is smart and quick on her feet, particularly when she prepares for battle and. Buffy, however, is also rash, as Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) tells her. She goes “hunting” for “fork guy” on her own after she promises Giles she won’t. Buffy’s impulsiveness will come back to haunt her in future episodes and future seasons. But then Buffy is young. Cordelia is traumatized when she finds a headless Mr. Gregory in a refrigerator in the lunchroom where she keeps her special meal. When Buffy overhears Cordy talking to a therapist one almost, almost, feels a bit of sympathy for Cordy. Xander (middle name LaVelle) is obsessed with Buffy. He has (male) delusions of grandeur: he saves Buffy from a certain death and plays rock god guitar hero in his daydream. Xander is jealous of Angel. His petty jealousies will come back to haunt the Buffyverse in future episodes and future seasons. Giles (“admiral”) doesn’t always inspire the troops with his sarcasm. He whinges about those “sunny” and “beautiful” SoCal days. Oh for British climatic charms.

Playing with language: love the heal…heel play on words.

Psychoanalysis: Blayne and Xander are obsessed with sex and notches on their sexual belt. Is Xander’s guitar a male phallic symbol? Miss French emasculates young virgin boys by mating with them and beheading them. Are Whedon and Company parodying Freudianism and the Freudian infused film?

Male on male moment: Xander tells Willow Angel is “buff”.

Slayeretters er Scoobies in peril: This time it is Xander.

Buffy the superhero: Blayne tells Buffy that there is “nothing wrong with an aggressive female”. Is Buffy an “aggressive female”? Buffy pushes Xander out of the way when he is trying to help her fight the She Mantis at the end of the episode.

helfron said...

Musings on “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date”

At the heart of “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date” is a theme that will become, as I noted earlier, prominent in the early seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, can or will Buffy be a normal girl who can try out for cheerleader and date the broody, quiet, reclusive, and mysterious Owen, er, Angel, or will she face up to her duties and responsibilities as a Slayer? “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date” raises questions about whether our Buffster can do both (“I can do both” Buffy says in the episode).

Owen, of course, represents, as we will see in future seasons of Buffy, the kind of guy Buffy likes—dark, brooding, romantic. His obsession with death, however, an obsession that pushes him, a normal person unlike Buffy the vampire slayer (and the Scoobies who know the score), to follow Buffy into the dangerous and evil darkness that encircles Sunnydale. This, as Buffy realizes at the end of the episode, may and probably will get Owen killed. So she breaks up with Owen (using the “lets just be friends” strategy).

Buffy’s neglect of her slayer responsibilities, as Buffy again recognizes at the end of the episode, also almost get Giles killed. Actions or a lack of action has consequences in the Buffyverse.

For the moment Buffy gives up Owen and accepts her slayer responsibilities. As we will see, however, this is not the end of Buffy’s struggle over whether she will just be a normal girl or a slayer.

“Never Kill a Boy on the First Date” follows a pattern that characterizes Buffy and a lot of the other TV shows and films of Joss Whedon (Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse), Whedon, after all, is one of the few auteurs amidst metteur-en-scenes like J.J. Abrams. There is, in this episode, what some people call the “monster of the week”, in this case the monster of the week is the bubba bad ass (the first of many) Andrew Borba (Geoff Mead) and the members of the Order of Aurelius. But this “monster of the week” picture is complicated by the fact that are also arcs in the episode, in this case the big bad Master arc. In “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date” the Master arc is given greater complexity with the introduction of the prophecy boy (not the prophecy man we first think it will be), the “anointed one” (Andrew Ferchland). All of this sets up, as we will see, the arc that will find fruition in the season finale, “Prophecy Girl”. Buffy, in other words, has memory, themes, and novelistic like arcs.

helfron said...

Religion: I love the Master’s use of religious language: “As it is written, so shall it be” and “Here endeth the lesson”. Borba uses religious tinged language again and again in his monologues, a religious language tinged with prophecy and apocalypticism, two central themes of Buffy.

Acting: Mark Metcalf (The Master) is fantastic. He has got the drama and the humour down.

Mise-en-scene: Note the attention to detail. The inside of Xander’s school locker has Xander posters in it.

Cinematography: I love the transition from Giles telling Buffy he needs to consult his books to the Master putting down, opening, and reading from a book. Note the blue hues particularly when the vamps attack the bus and in the funeral home scenes.

Clothes: Note the significant number of red and blue colours in the clothes. Red and blue are important colours in the Buffy visualverse. Note how Angel goes from Old World velvet to new world Marlon Brando and James Dean.

Humour: There is tons of it. Love it when Buffy tells the vamp in the teaser that she is fighting with that he is history (“I’m Buffy and you’re history”) as she kills him. I love Giles’s critique of Buffy’s technique just after Buffy kills the vamp. Funny stuff.

Character: Character traits continue to be revealed in this episode. Angel is jealous of Owen. Angel likes Buffy. The best friend relationship between Willow and Buffy continues to grow as the Buffy uses Willow as a sounding board for clothes she might wear on her date with Owen. For Buffy Xander remains one of the “girls”, someone she can ask about clothes and lipstick she might wear on her date with Owen. Xander’s jealousy of anyone Buffy fancies continues. Xander is overprotective of Buffy as a result. The battle between Buffy and Cordy heats up as the two battle over Owen. Cordy tries to pick up Angel before learning that he too is there to see the Buffster. Giles old worldness continues to be emphasized (his old world car and his old world and “British” use of the word “chap”).

Dusting: Vamps can be killed by fire. We learned previously on Buffy that they can be staked, beheaded, injured with holy water, and held back by the Christian cross.

Language: Love the term “owenosity”. Note how Giles’s serious “tonight we go into battle” speech is undercut by the “perhaps I miscalculated” transition from library to graveyard. Drama to comedy. Love it when Borba refers to Willow, Xander, and Owen as “pork and beans”.

Popular Culture: The reference to Clark Kent and secret identities. Buffy is supposed to, at least according to Watcher lore, keep her slayer identity secret.

Trivial pursuit: Buffy uses the phrase “bite me” for the first time. Cordy uses the phrase “well, umm” again. She used it in the first episode. Cordy uses, for the first time, the phrase “hello salty goodness” in reference to Angel. She will use it again in an episode of Angel (“Spin the Bottle”). Giles’s bag makes its first appearance. The writers of this episode, Rob DesHotel and Dean Batali, would go on to work on That 70s Show.

helfron said...

“Musings on “The Pack”

“The Pack” has long been one of my favourite episodes of BtVS. I think I like it so much because so much of what I like in Buffy—the metaphors, the pain, the darkness, the character changes, the emotional intensity—makes an appearance in this episode.

Metaphors of the Week (pun intended): High School is Hell where high school cliques are packs of animals (in this case hyenas) prey on the weak. Boys are testosterone driven morons (Giles to Buffy: “Xander has taken to teasing the less fortunate? It’s devastating. He’s (Xander) turned into a sixteen-year-old boy. Of course, you’ll have to kill him”).
Playing with Genre: Buffy does the possession motif of classic Hollywood horror.

The Darkness and the Pain: In “The Pack” we are introduced to Dark Xander, the Xander who can, while under the spell of a hyena spirit, be mean, really mean, too fan favourite (and Ron favourite) Willow. Dark Xander to Willow: “…so I won’t have to look at your pasty face anymore”. Similar scenes will show up later in Buffy. An equivalent scene will show up, for instance, in “Nightmares”, namely, the brutal and painful scene between Buffy and her father. More about this later.

Themes and mise-en-scene: the “brutal” dodge ball game in the middle of the episode reflects the strong preying on the weak theme of the episode. Xander brutally sending Willow out of the dodge ball game is a foreshadowing of the “pasty face” scene that follows.
Buffy as protector of the weak: note how Buffy’s first inclination is to go and protect Lance from the, as yet, unpossessed pack. Note how Buffy helps up Lance after he is viciously pummeled during the dodge ball game. Note how Buffy protects Willow and confronts Xander after the “pasty face” scene. Note how Buffy protects Willow (“put Willow in peril”) from the pack as they hunt for her at Sunnydale High School.

The Horror: The scene where a young mother with child in carrier happens upon the pack, the scene where the pack chases Willow, and the scene where the pack attack a parked SUV with a family in it are genuinely scary.

Humour: There is lots of black humour in this episode. Rhonda: “How is Herbert?” Heidi: “Crunchy”.

Character: Willow is still obsessed with Xander. Willow once again shows she is not so naïve: she doesn’t fall for Dark Xander’s speechifying while he is locked in the cage in the library. Buffy has her “buttons pushed” by Angel. Xander still has a thing for Buffy as his very sexualized attack on Buffy in the room where Herbert the pig is eaten by the pack makes clear. Dark Xander compares himself to dangerous Angel.

helfron said...

Foreshadowing: Giles gets knocked out for the first time.

Music: Note the use of African rhythms and African like drums. I love the song “Job’s Eyes” by Far, the song used as the pack, led by Xander, is on the prowl during lunch outside on the Sunnydale High School campus. I love the way Buffy uses popular music to reflect the narrative. Is “Job’s Eyes”, a song derived, in part, from a book of the Tanakh which reflects on the nature of evil in the universe, meant to comment on the nature of evil in the Buffyverse, an evil that can possess humans and cause them to eat pigs and principals and to attack the weak? Buffy also uses popular music to reflect what is going on in the minds of its characters. More about this later.

Religion: Africa’s Masai, the Primals, and animal possession. Some academic “readers” have read this as an instance of Buffy’s white neo-colonialism. I suspect that what makes “The Pack” with its hyena possession “racist” for some academics is that hyenas are associated with Africa and African rituals are associated with possession and dispossession in the episode. But let’s question this equation of Buffy with racism. Note that all the kids who became possessed by hyenas in Buffy “The Pack” are all White. I guess one could argue that the White kids in Buffy were being possessed by African animals. Then you can go on to argue that the hyenas invariably get caught up semiologically into all those nasty Western ideas about and images of “Darkest Africa”. Note, however, that generally no effort is made by the crystal ball textualists who write these articles to go beyond the text and the supposed contexts these critics tie the Buffy text to. Generally crystal ball textualists make no attempt to interview those who create TV shows to see what their intent was.

Acting: I love the expression on Alyson Hannigan’s face after she is viciously hit by the Xander thrown ball in the dodge ball game. What a great actor. Nicholas Brendon (Xander) does a great job expressing his transformation from “good” Xander to “dark” Xander through expressions, scratching, smelling, and a hyena like laugh.

Cinematography: Great use of a hand held camera to follow Herbert the pig though the Sunnydale High School hall. This documentary like style will show up prominently later in the fifth season episode, “The Body”. Needless to say the use of documentary stylings in TV has become an obsession. Love the intercutting of the killing of Principal Flutie (Ken Lerner) and the Xander/Buffy fight.

Popular Culture: Is Willow’s “three’s not company anymore” a reference to the TV show Three’s Company?

Trivial pursuit: first use of the cage in the library as a place to imprison someone. Sunnydale High’s colours are those of USC.

redeem147 said...

I just can't take The Master seriously since I met Mark Metcalf and he was so afraid of the Canadians because of SARS. :)

Cynthea said...

@redeem147--what do you mean IF Spike actually told Buffy his back story?! This comment fascinates me because I have never questioned whether Spike was telling Buffy the truth, but the possibility that he may have lied is quite intriguing. I will be sure to tune in for your commentary when we get to that episode later in the year!

Lexie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lexie said...

Ah see I didn't enjoy most of "Never Kill a Boy on a First Date". Maybe because I wanted more slaying less romance-angst. Though its too bad we don't see Owen later on, during the prom, when everyone is commemorating Buffy for saving their lives (or during Graduation). I'd love to see how Owen turned out.

@Redeem147: The first time I saw "Seeing Red" I thought of Xander's attempt in "The Pack" as well, though at the time I had assumed that the difference was Xander was under the control of hyena-driven urges, and thus acquitted of his actions because Buffy wanted him to be not guilty of such a thing.

Spike, in "Seeing Red" where I really really hated him so very much, didn't have any such excuse. His actions were driven by his obsession with Buffy, not the feelings he may or may not have felt for her. That I think was the biggest difference. Xander in his right mind would never try to force Buffy--or any woman (later, in season 2's "Bothered, Bewitched and Bewildered", when he causes everyone to fall in love with him, the fact he didn't take advantage of the moment speaks more towards the sort of person he really is).

Something never sat right with me with "Seeing Red" and Buffy's later reactions to Spike's actions. But that's not for here.

Looking back I feel bad for Buffy. Think about her 'human' love interests in the series--Owen (apparently jones' for weird stuff), Ford (wanted to become a vampire), Parker (who is just a sleazoid), Riley (works for a super secret government run supernatural threat squad), Ben (oops alter-ego is Glory!) and Wood (son of a Slayer). She just has no luck with 'normal' humans.

And I love that Xander's mishap with Ms. French is referenced for the better part of the rest of the series--and begins his supernatural chick lovefest (Ms. French, Mummy Girl and Anya). I also remember the whole "Pack" thing being referenced a bit (Snyder mentions not wanting to be eaten like his predecessor, Xander mentions understanding Oz's animal urges 'cause of being taken over by a hyena one time--which Buffy or Willow than immediately asks him how he could since he said he doesn't remember that at all).

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I swear I remember an interview that JW did at some point where he said he wasn't certain that Angel would become as integral as he became? Am I just misremembering something?

((sorry my original comment had some episode title mistakes--I'm a nitpicker!))

Kristen Romanelli said...

On the subject of Boreanez's performance...


We were just watching some of the first season tonight and noted just how snarky Angel is. Seriously, his performance is more Angelus than the Angel we came to know. Except, you know, without the killing and mayhem. Very interesting to see with the entire character arc/development in mind.

I think I heard David (Kociemba) talking about how David (Boreanez) changed his performance after "Never Kill a Boy on the First Date," essentially yoinking Owen's performance.

ShellRoth said...

I know this subject will come up again, but on my re watch I was surprised to notice this so early in the series. Buffy essentially kills a human in "The Pack" when she tosses the zookeeper into the hyena cage. Of course, he was evil, but later on there will be a big deal made about Buffy killing a human. Any thoughts?

I agree that there's still lots of inconsistency- especially with Buffy's intelligence and physical strength.

Enjoying your musings, helfron, as well as everyone's interesting comments. And I can't wait until FFL!

Lexie said...

@ShellRoth: Well Buffy seems more opposed to directly killing a human. Shoving the zookeeper into the Hyena pit was partially self-defense, he was clearly acting in a hostile and homicidal manner towards them all. And she does look...not exactly sad so much as 'That wasn't what I meant to do.'

We can argue that she killed Ford (in "Lie to Me") by trapping him down in the basement with Spike and co. She knew the outcome of that, she warned him of the outcome.

I think as long as she (or the Scoobies) aren't directly responsible for it, its less of a thing for her.

Plus after season 3 with Faith stabbing that poor Mayor Flunkie, Buffy really becomes 'This is not what we do' because she is terrified of crossing that line like Faith did.

karoliinahv said...

i think buffy also uses the "here endeth the lesson" in "showtime" after killing the über-vamp in front of the potentials?

helfron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
helfron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
helfron said...

Hmm, the zookeeper (played by James Stephens who played the lead character James T. Hart in the TV version of Paper Chase) is possessed by a hyena at the point Buffy kills him. So is he human? Fully human?

Lexie said...

that's a good point hellfron! though she shows reluctance to kill Faith (in season 3) and later Ben (in season 5) and they're clearly not all human. In Ben's case he's a ticking time bomb with a homicidal psychotic Helldemon stuck in his head--if ever there was a reason for the 'ends justify the means' lecture it was then.

Though now that I think about it in season 6, when Willow says she's gonna kill Warren, Buffy's main point seemed to be that human law (and justice) would take care of him. He used human means (a gun) to shoot and kill Tara (and attempted to kill Buffy).

In the other cases (minus Faith, but well that's a whole different issue) its usually supernatural and thus the law has less jurisdiction?

Suzanne said...

Concerning David's point in this post about Buffy's seeming lack of intelligence in the 1st season possibly being a sign of Joss and the writers "calibrating" elements of story and character, I wanted to pose another theory. Could it be that Buffy like many young teenage girls is subconsciously hiding her intelligence behind a facade, in this case by playing the role of Valley Girl? If so, I see her eventual acceptance of her intelligence as a parallel to her struggle to adjust to life as a slayer and the isolation it will bring her. As Joss does so often with this show, especially in the first few seasons, he captures the struggles that teens go through very well. In this case, it is amazing that he may have possibly captured a particularly feminine struggle that many teen girls experience so well. I think we can see a similar struggle happening with Cordelia, but it seems to take her a bit longer to overcome her facade since she doesn't completely let it slip until much later in the Angel series.

Suzanne said...

As for redeem147's comment about Xander and the seeming hypocrisy of him not equating his attempted rape of Buffy more to what happens in Seeing Red, I would suggest that Xander displays this kind of hypocrisy on other occasions, too. I remember that much later when Anya goes on a rampage killing some Frat boys, Xander lectures Buffy about wanting to put a stop to Anya since she is now a demon, yet he was always the first to insist that Buffy do something about Angelus and/or Spike, even when Spike was working with the Scoobies. Xander often seems unable to put himself in others' shoes, yet when the same kind of thing happens to him, he is the first to claim that someone doesn't understand. (By the way, I love Xander, but these are the wonderful character traits that Joss infuses into his "heroes" that make them real.)

Michael Holland said...

In Ian Klein's notes on his blog (http://ianklein.me/?p=330), he comments on the great use of the "Teacher's Pet" end fight being shadowed on the wall. Great indeed, and I imagine an homage to Michael Curtiz who used this quite a bit, significantly in 'The Adventures Of Robin Hood.'

Also in the same ep, there's the joke of Buffy playing the wrong side of the tape -- Giles' voice instead of the bat sonar. I imagine this, too, is an homage; this time to Bob Hope playing the wrong record in 'My Favorite Brunette.'

Keep up the great work, everyone!

Cheers ...

Teebore said...

Teacher's Pet is pretty much the typical "monster of the week", Buffy season 1 episode, isn't it?

I've never been a huge fan of "...First Date." Maybe it's that I don't buy Owen as a love interest for Buffy, maybe it's because the whole "Anointed One" plot ultimately fizzles out with little payoff, maybe it's just the rough season 1 edges, I dunno.

"The Pack" is great though, and one of those episodes whose thematic resonance echoes throughout the series (and it a lot of fun to watch with the benefit of seven seasons of hindsight).

The Rush Blog said...

I also wanted to discuss the attempted rape and how it is played more for humour in this episode than what will come in Seeing Red. It's a little horrifying that Xander just sees it as something embarrassing. And isn't he being a hypocrite later in season six?

If you thought that "The Pack" was bad in regard to attempted rape, check out Season 6's "Gone".

redeem147 said...

If you thought that "The Pack" was bad in regard to attempted rape, check out Season 6's "Gone".

I'm assuming you mean Buffy doesn't believe 'no is no'?

Spike, in "Seeing Red" where I really really hated him so very much, didn't have any such excuse.

Even though he was a soulless vampire at the time? He was also drunk and misled by Dawn's comment.

Even though when Buffy pushes him away he's horrified with what he might have done, as opposed to Xander's reaction which is to push Buffy up against the wall and try again?

I'm not excusing what Spike tried to do. I'm saying that Xander tried to do the same thing and knew it afterwards.

I think the scene in Seeing Red was much more complicated than Spike acting on his obsession, but I'll save that for our season six discussion

charlotte.alexander said...

Hi all - Helfron - you are definitely right about the Greek connection. In an earlier episode, Xander says he's the "King of the Cretins." His own name refers to Alexander the Great. In Teacher's Pet, he mentions that he likes Greek Salad. Like in that Greek salad thing with the yogurt. Do you like Greek food?

The entire Buffy arc is based on the characters from Greek myth, the Aenead, the Illiad and the Odyssey. Buffy is Queen Dido. Joss is just a thief. :)

Some very nice indie music at the Bronze - I noted that Cordelia claims that a song with the words "fight the good fight" is her favorite. I had forgotten how she immediately was interested in Angel with her "salty goodness" comment. I really loved the old Cordelia. Too bad they made her such a goody good in the Angel show.

Teacher's pet - I loved that crunchy cricket sandwich. Also, I realized that the praying mantis also bit off the head of Dr. Gregory, so he was still a virgin? In TP, Buffy wears a green and white dress, Xander wears a green shirt and they eat green food in the cafeteria. The clothes are always interesting in the Bverse.

Never Kill - There's an interesting foreshadowing of Xander's sexual assault on Buffy in the Pack in this episode. While she's getting dressed for her date with Mr. Owenocity, Xander is told to turn his back. He sneaks a peak at Buffy changing her clothes in the mirror.

Buffy and fire - Buffy is frequently seen with fire images - the cheerleader whose hands catch on fire, the fire of the cremation chamber in Never Kill. Plenty more fire images to come.

The Pack - I love this episode. Xander is so incredibly mean! In fact, he's meaner than the others. Too bad we didn't get to see this Xander again. I take Xander's claim of memory loss to mean that he doesn't want to accept what he did and that this evil is a part of his character.

StarfuryBR said...

While "emasculated Xander" is generally played for laughs, and Xander-fans adore Season 3's "The Zeppo" because he gets a bit of his own back, I see "The Pack" as an interesting (if disturbing) twist on the whole motif.

By the gym scene, Xander has abandoned his Scooby membership and become the Alpha male of a vicious pack. Notice how he brutally removes Willow from the game, and then he is the first one to turn away from Buffy and toward Lance, with the others following suit. From then on whenever he is show with the pack, he is in the lead, and he initiates virtually every action. Yes, Xander is evil and disturbing in this episode, but it also reveals, long before "The Zeppo," that Xander is NOT, and never has been a lightweight--it is only his friendship with Buffy that makes him seem so. It's a testament to his character that although he could be top dog in another group, he would rather be one of Buffy's gang, even if it means always being merely ordinary.

Lisa(until further notice) said...

@StarfuryBR, not only is Xander merely ordinary, but in season 7 we find out he is extraordinary, with a beautiful speech to Dawn. Xoxoxo Xander.

EBethToThePowerOf? said...

Thank you for hosting the rewatch! I came to Buffy after it had ended, and hoovered the entire series on DVD. My best friend insisted I watch it based on my love of the X-Files, and I had to be dragged through Season1. Luckily, she told me that even though the first season was uneven, lots of things were established that were referred to throughout the series. By the end of the Series 1 Finale, I was begging her to put in Season 2 Disc 1!

Since I watched Angel all on DVD after Buffy, I have never had as good a sense of how they weave together. When we get to season 4, Niki, I hope you post how to stagger the two to get the whole picture.

Re: The Pack--I always wondered how that girl at the Prom knew about these events? She shouts out "hyena people!" during Jonathan's speech. Just since Xander denied it.

Re: Teacher's Pet--I love how this episode upends expectations about sexual virility and virginity. At the beginning Xander is embarrassed about his virginity and has dreams of sexual prowess. . .then those fantasies run head into the sexually predatory praying mantis monster. Almost like she gives him a taste of his own medicine. . .or at least the way he was pretending to be with the guys. Like, how do you like being treated like a piece of meat, boys! I thought is was very cheeky. Also, is that Larry's first appearance? Funny in light of what we learn about him later:)

Finally, Suzanne, I think you are right on with your comments about Buffy's intelligence. I teach teenagers and adolescent girls learn quickly to hide these things, unfortunately. Witness Cordelia's comments about her SAT scores in Season 3: "Please, I have some experience in hiding these things!"

EBethToThePowerOf? said...

Oh, okay that dude is not even remotely Larry. That is what happens when you rewatch on Netflix on your kitchen counter with a 3 yr. old, 2 yr. old and 6 month old at home!

Suzanne said...

Thanks, EBethToThePowerOf. Unfortunately, I know first-hand about the way that adolescent girls have a tendency to hide their intelligence. I grew up during the Valley Girl era, and even though I graduated in the top 15 of a high school class of over 600, I purposely cultivated an airhead persona in order to hide my intelligence. I didn't do it in a completely conscious way, but looking back on it now, I know that I was playing a role that was acceptable for girls at the time. When I tell people this now, they have a hard time believing it, especially since I teach college English. :)

I am sure most of you will agree that many aspects of the Buffy of Season 1 have almost disappeared in the persona of the Buffy of late Season 4 after becoming a college student. I believe this is true for a lot of women.

helfron said...

Don't a lot of us, male or female, hide our intelligence given its far too often negative connotations and consequences? I do realise this hiding of ones intelligence probably has different manifestations across nations, cultures, ethnic groups, regions, and genders.

One of the reasons many are crypto intellectuals is that, for me, the US and UK in particular seem like the kingdoms of anti-intellectualism. I mean just look at how all those right wing demagogues rave about "pinheads", "intellectuals", and "academics". The irony is that they, of course, are "intellectuals". They just fetishise their own ideologies and demonise those they disagree with.

Lexie said...

I hid my intelligence as a child more because of my mother than my peers. She didn't want a 'smart' child because 'smart children never did anything' (she would have preferred a Cordelia to a Willow).

In HS though it came in handy to bust out the clever tongue 'cause my peers needed someone who was 'book learned' and it was a well known fact that I read everything and anything.

I see my sister hiding her intelligence though, all the time with her friends. She's smart--she learns things quick and she comprehends things easily. Maybe its not genius math or science, but she remembers facts and such. But her friends are...well their main life's ambition is to get pregnant after graduation from HS so they can collect wellfare. They made her life miserable in HS whenever she'd show even a slight more understanding. In 9th, when she got into Honors English and History, she came home sobbing because her friends wouldn't talk to someone who was 'so hoity-toity'.

Intelligence is seen as a threat in more places than not, especially in areas where the system is jacked and the school itself places less emphasis on academic excellence and more on sports.

helfron said...

You make me think of one of my favourite ironies: In the US one of the few places where you can hear intellectual talk and intellectual debate--debates over approach, methodology, statistics, empirical evidence--is on sports radio.

Jaime said...

Great comments, David! But I also take issue with Buffy not knowing who Emily Dickinson is being a sign of her unintelligence. It's more a matter of ignorance than intelligence. I don't think it's inconveivable that she would never have encountered her poetry in school yet (she's a product of the American public school system, after all!) She's in 10th grade here, and I think the first time my English classes covered Emily Dickinson was in 11th grade. And Owen is reading "Emily" for pleasure, not a class.

Plus, what others have said about teenage girls hiding their intelligence is spot on. I would also add distractions here. Buffy has been distracted by slaying, and before that in her LA school boys and clothes were likely more important than homework (teenage girl!). Compared to these things, I'm sure English homework ranks pretty low. I don't think it's inconsistent characterization - she's just young.

JavaChick said...

Great comments everyone - so much fun to read!

With regard to the seeming inconsistencies with Buffy's intelligence, I'd like to offer another perspective. I am fairly intelligent, but in situations where I am nervous or flustered I can sound like a complete idiot. That could certainly be the case when Buffy is talking to a boy she has a crush on. I would cite Buffy's first encounter with Riley as another example of this. Formerly shy Willow had no problem interacting with Riley, while Buffy is completely overwhelmed by her first day of college and can barely string two words together.

Just another possibility to consider. :)

Jaime said...

Regarding the attempted rape parallel with "Seeing Red"...It's odd, but I never saw it that way, even though looking back now it clearly is. I think the difference for me is that I never believed that Xander would be able to hurt Buffy, even with super hyena-boy strength, so it didn't seem as threatening. Any advantage he seemed to have in that scene was more from Buffy's reluctance to hurt him. The scene with Spike was scarier because there was a threat that he could actually succeed. Their strength was more evenly matched, especially with Buffy injured.

I need to do this rewatch along with you. It's been too long since I've seen Season One! Great idea, Nikki.

Suzanne said...

I enjoyed the great comments everyone has been posting about intelligence and Buffy's possible motivations for hiding hers. To Helfron, you are spot on when you write about how gender is not the only factor that comes into play with this issue of hiding intelligence. Many other groups in the US are pressured by the society for one reason or another to hide their intelligence. It certainly seems to have gotten worse in the political sphere as you mention with intelligence becoming almost a dirty word to some. The ironies you pointed out were fascinating because it is certainly true that in both the case of sports fans and political ideologies that typically put down intelligence, those very same groups engage critical analysis (whether it is logical or not in some cases is up for debate) when it comes to their own areas of interest. Some groups just like to put down or demonize anyone else who does so in a way that doesn't conform to their norms.

I also liked Jaime and JavaChick's theories that distractions and nervousness can account for Buffy's airheadednes, too.

Tom D. said...

I feel like some people are maybe overrating "The Pack," and Nick Brendon's performance in it, a bit. At least for me, Hyena!Xander never felt like a really menacing, serious villain. And the episode as a whole centers around a rather heavy-handed instance of the "high school is hell" metaphor.

The best thing about "The Pack," to me, is Giles's sarcastic lines about how Xander is turning into a 16-year-old boy and clearly he must be killed. But I suspect that either Joss himself, or the writers who got the credit for this episode (Kiene & Rienkemeyer), thought up that line pretty early on and sort of built the episode around it. That makes it less cool for me, when the show seems to have gone to great lengths to set up a mere witty line or two.

And when Xander was being hyena-boy, I was mostly just embarrassed for him. In that scene where he wanted to rape Buffy, it was still so obvious, despite his newfound pseudo-cool, that she was way out of his league.

Compare Hyena!Xander to Vampire Xander from "The Wish." In "The Wish," Vampire Xander seems to be pretty much an average vampire -- not a leader, not the center of attention, not especially fearsome. He's still close friends with the much more impressive Vampire Willow, but on his own he's nothing special. For me, both episodes tend to show that Xander really is just a good-hearted regular guy -- he doesn't have a lot of untapped dark-side potential.

The other hyena-people didn't seem that scary to me either. There was so much use of slow-motion and vaguely menacing/uncomfortable facial expressions to make them seem scary, but it wasn't working for me. Maybe this was because the episode established, early on, that neither Buffy nor Willow nor Xander really took those "mean kids" seriously. At most, they managed to make Buffy sad for a second with some teasing, but she got over it real fast. And Xander -- not the toughest guy around, by any means -- seemed to have no problem challenging the "mean kids" to fisticuffs to defend the random nerd they were bullying.

I think it would have been much scarier if the hyena-kids had eaten a student rather than the principal. To me, that would have fit better with the emotional core of the episode, which is that being bullied and teased by the mean/cool kids can be a genuinely scary and traumatic experience. (It was for me, anyway, back in the early 90s.) It's kind of a different message when the bullies eat an authority figure (albeit a somewhat likeable one).

Anyhow, that's just my subjective experience of the episode this time around.

Kellie said...

Just wanted to drop in and say that I agree with Dr. Lavery re: principal Flutie. I found him a likable character and always wished he could have stuck around a bit longer (though his death did pave the way for Snyder while not as likable, was an entertaining/humorous character, whether or not he intended to be). Same with Dr. Gregory, another likable guy I wish we'd seen more of, especially for Buffy's sake. She needed someone to believe in her abilities, not just as Buffy the slayer, but Buffy the student, Buffy the girl. Dr. Gregory was the first person at Sunnydale High besides Giles to ever show Faith in Buffy and her capabilities. I was really touched by the emotion she showed with his passing, something we had not seen yet from her in the series. Her reaction I think really demonstrated the impact that Dr. Gregory's words had. Interesting that these characters, though minor, still manage to make an impact so early on in the series. Of course, we had little idea at the time how much worse it would get... And as for Teacher's Pet, I always wished something had come of those mantis eggs in the closet. lol.

Looking forward to the next installment.

Oh, and Nikki, neat trick about the Dickinson. :)