2.10 What’s My Line, Part 2
This week we have two amazing episodes . . . and “Ted.” Season 2 is interesting because it moves in waves. There is a bit of a slow start, and then School Hard happens. Then a couple of okay episodes that feel very season one-ish, followed by the hilarity of “Halloween” and the darkness of “Lie to Me” and “The Dark Age.” The “What’s My Line?” episodes further the idea of Buffy realizing she has no future and bringBuffy and Angel together so they actually feel like a couple, where until now it’s been more like puppy love. And then there’s “Ted” and “Bad Eggs,” which are the “meh” episodes in the middle of the season, followed by the spectacular “Surprise”/ “Innocence” combo you’re going to get next week, and after that it pretty much hurtles forward until the end without stopping. (Well, okay, stopping briefly for a couple of monster-of-the-week eps near the end, but that’s fine.)
I’ve often wondered how Buffy would have looked if it had followed the HBO model of 13 episodes a season. Every season of BtVS always has those throwaway episodes that are standalones and don’t do much to further the plot. Lost had them, too, but they were less noticeable – either the backstory was just meaningless or the on-island material was boring, but rarely did an episode of Lost completely miss on both counts. BtVS, on the other hand, has those filler episodes each season where they took the scripts they’d originally relegated to the scrap heap and pulled them out, saying, “Hey, let’s do THIS one!” But as many a Buffy fan will say (and I’m one of them), the worst episode of Buffy is still better than 99% of everything else on TV. And even “Ted” is one of those episodes that’s instantly memorable... where I’ve forgotten some of the minute details of some of my favourite Buffy episodes, I remembered every minute of this one. Of course, I also remembered that I kind of hated it.
In light of one particular scene we watched this week, I do want to take this opportunity to mention a particular paper that really fascinated me at last year’s Slayage. It was by a German scholar, Marcus Recht, who provided this amazing look at BtVS that I’d never considered before. He watched the series with the sound turned off (!) and looked at the actual poses of the characters during torture scenes. He found that typically on Buffy and Angel, the vampires are pulled out into Jesus Christ poses, with their arms stretched out at their sides, shirtless, and vulnerable. The humans typically have their arms clasped behind them, usually in a chair. Watch for this in the rest of the series. In “What’s My Line, Part 2,” we see the first vampire torture scene with Drusilla going after Angel, and his arms are stretched out at his side and he’s shirtless, just like Marcus said. It was quite a stunning paper.
• Buffy and Willow discussing their love of shrubs.
• Drusilla’s whimper and the way Spike jumps up to soothe her instantly.
• Spike “dancing” with Dru.
• Mr. Gordo!!
• Giles: “You’d be amazed at how numbingly pompous and long-winded some of these Watchers were.” Buffy: “Colour me stunned.”
• Xander to Snyder: “I want to walk in your shoes. Well... not YOUR shoes. You’re a tiny person.”
• Oz: “Canapé?” EEEEEE!!!
• Buffy on what book was stolen from the tomb: “I’m guessing it wasn’t A Taste of the Vatican cookbook.”
• I’ve always had a soft spot for Willy the Snitch.
• Willow: “Don’t warn the tadpoles!” (This is the frog fear I was referring to a few weeks ago when I found it strange that she had a stuffed frog with her.)
• Cordy: “What am I, mass transportation?” Xander: “That’s what a lot of the guys say, but it’s just locker room talk.”
• Willow: “There’s a Slayer handbook?! . . . Is there a t-shirt, too?”
• The orchestra that strikes up every time Cordy and Xander kiss always makes me laugh out loud.
• Xander: “Who sponsored Career Day today? The British Soccer Fan Association??”
• Xander: “I am the Bug Man, coo-coo-ca-choo.”
• Drusilla: “Shh... grrrruh! Bad dog.” Drusilla torturing Angel is absolutely delicious. I adore her mania.
• Spike calling Buffy “Rebecca of Sunnyhell Farm.” Ladies and gentleman, the original Sawyer.
• Will’s first vamp kill!
• That Gothic Spike/Dru scene at the end of “What’s My Line.” FanTAStic.
• “Ted”: Cordy: “Feels like home! If it’s the 50s and you’re a psycho!”
• Giles saying his layers of tweed are better than Kevlar.
• Buffy: Do I have to sound an airhorn every time I walk into a room?!
Did You Notice?
• For the new viewers, WML is Marti Noxon’s first writing appearance, and she would ultimately become the executive producer of the show and pretty much helm it when Joss was busy with Angel and Firefly.
• I remember when the WML episodes first aired, there was a whole discussion on the Buffy posting boards about what “the whole 9 yards” really DID mean. Oh Wikipedia, how we longed for you and your suspect information in those days...
• I always thought it was rather amusing that something as valuable and legendary as the du Lac cross was located in Sunnydale... a few minutes from the high school. How... convenient.
• Ah, 1998. Remember a time when they didn’t show blood on television? Buffy slits the bounty hunter’s throat with her damn skate and there’s not a single drop of blood on the ice.
• OMG, when the Worm Man comes to the door next to Buffy’s, the woman who answers the door is totally Jane Bodehouse from True Blood!! I recognized her the minute I saw her. Interesting she went from one line on Buffy to a full part in True Blood.
• Eh, mon! Dee Award for WORST ACCENT ON BtVS goes to... “Kin-DRAH! Dee Vum-pire Slay-ER!” (At least, until we hear a certain accent in the Becoming episodes... the rewatchers know exactly which one I mean.) Oh Kin-DRAH, that accent. UGH. (Bianca Lawson is now on Vampire Diaries.) Bianca is American, but Kendra is the
• So, in case the whole slayer thing wasn’t clear (and there are long-time viewers who still have a bit of an issue with the ascendancy thing), Buffy is no longer the active Slayer. When she “died,” Kendra was called. So if Buffy dies tomorrow, there’s no new Slayer. Only if Kendra dies will a new Slayer be called forth. It’s too bad only one is allowed at a time, otherwise you could just stop the Slayer’s heart over and over and create new Slayers all over the world.
• “Back off, Pink Ranger!” That line was an in-joke, because Sarah Michelle Gellar’s stunt double was the Pink Ranger on Power Rangers (when she was inside the suit).
• Buffy appears to be dressed like a homeless person for days in this episode.
• “Ted”: Ack, floppy disks!! Now THAT dates the program.
• Sorry, have to say it... “Ted” is one of the episodes that made me really dislike Joyce. Buffy comes to talk to her in the kitchen to say Ted threatened her and Joyce simply says, “He did no such thing.” She waves it off like her daughter’s on crack and doesn’t actually listen to Buffy at all. Argh.
• OMG... a police station actually exists in SUNNYDALE!! With, like, procedure and interviews and everything! The mind boggles.
• "Daddy's here." :::SHUDDER:::
• While “Ted” is an easy ep to dismiss, it’s important to the idea that Buffy’s power could be dangerous to those close to her. It also speaks to something that a lot of viewers have experienced – a parent back out on the dating scene, and the ooginess that can follow.
This week I’m introducing a new element to the rewatch: the Cheeseman! Otherwise known as Janet Halfyard, or Steve Halfyard, depending on who you ask. Janet is Director of Undergraduate Studies at Birmingham Conservatoire in the UK. She wrote the first essay on Buffy and Music, which you can read here. She’ll be popping in every once in a while just to add a paragraph on some of the more interesting musical moments on Buffy, and since, as I’ve pointed out repeatedly so far, the addition of Christophe Beck really changed the tone of the show, I’m fascinated by this (and for the Losties, please help me in convincing Janet that she REALLY needs to watch Lost to hear how musical motifs are created and carried out for each character...) ;)
Think of me as the Cheeseman — not really a spoiler, just something that won’t make any sense (if you’re new to Buffy) until the end of season 4. But anyway, I’m the person who pops up now and then saying “look, I made a space for the music.”
“What’s My Line” has one of my favourite ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ clever bits of musical game playing. One of the big themes of the double episode is Buffy’s desire to have some kind of normal life, other than just being locked into her life as the Slayer; and that’s one of the reasons she ends up going on her ice-skating date with Angel. As she waits for Angel at the ice rink in Part 1, we watch her skating to a sweet, wistful piano melody: but if you listen carefully, you’ll hear that it’s actually the series theme tune, reworked in a major key (the Nerf Herder theme is in a minor key). The Nerf Herder version is loud, aggressive – it’s all about Buffy as the Slayer; but this reworked version is not about that, it’s about Buffy as a fairly normal teenage girl with a bit of a Dorothy Hamill fixation. The conflict between those two identities is actually really clear at this moment as both she and her music attempt to distance themselves from the heroic identity of the kick-ass Nerf Herder theme: and yet the fact that she can never separate herself from being the hero is highlighted by this still actually being the same theme, seen from a different musical angle. Whether major or minor, aggressive or lyrical, it is still the theme of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: and we get that underlined at the end of Part 2 of as Buffy says goodbye to Kendra. The major key version of the theme plays again, mirroring musically what Kendra tells Buffy “You always do that…You talk about slaying like it’s a job. It’s not. It’s who you are.”
Thank you, Janet! And now on to the feature presentation of the week: Evan Munday! Evan is an illustrator and the publicist of Coach House Press, an excellent indie publisher in Toronto (like mine) and someone who comes to so many of my company’s launches that the publisher keeps joking he should get a frequent launcher card – go to five launches, and the book for the sixth one is free! He is very funny and an excellent writer. His upcoming first novel will be published by my press, ECW, in fall of this year. It’s a Y/A novel called “The Dead Kid Detective Agency,” about a group of kids who join forces with a group of ghosts of dead children who help them fight crimes. Dark and funny, all rolled into one. I asked him if he could do one of his patented videos for me so you could share in his kooky brand of humour, and he graciously complied. He sent this to me at work, and I started watching it but made it about two minutes in and was giggling so much I had to turn it off and watch the rest at home. So, take it away, Evan!
“The subtext is rapidly becoming the text”
by Evan Munday
When faced with the three episodes of the eighth week of the Great Buffy Rewatch, it seems obvious which episodes to focus on. The two-part ‘What’s My Line?’ is much more integral to the ongoing Buffy story arc, both for Season 2 and the entire series, yet, I just love ‘Ted’ too much. Consider the following arguments:
Reasons to study ‘What’s My Line? (Parts 1 & 2)’:
1) Kendra, the second vampire slayer is introduced. There’s more than one! And she dresses like Aladdin and speaks in a Jamairish accent! [OMG, Evan just came up with perfect name for her accent!! –Nik] This seems like it could be crucial to upcoming episodes. Not only her existence, but the entire idea of a slayer queue is integral to the mythos. When one slayer dies, another is ‘activated’ to take her place. Buffy very temporarily died when The Master drowned her, so Kendra shows up. Without spoiling too much, this becomes kind of a big deal in Season 3 and Season 7.
2) Xander and Cordelia totally make out! When faced with extreme danger (and possible doom), Xander presses his lips to those of his frenemy. This can only lead to either hilarity or heartbreak. Knowing this show, probably both.
3) Willow meets Oz, for real. After several "Who *is* that girl"s from television’s shortest heartthrob, Mr. Seth Green finally gets to talk to his dream woman at the school career fair. They share similar interests and aptitudes. And by the end of the second episode, they share an intense life experience together (when, y’know, that unhinged policewoman tries to shoot Willow). If Speed taught us anything, we can assume a solid romantic relationship will follow.
4) The whole slayer heavy-cross-to-bear really gets hammered home with the school career fair and Buffy’s lament that she already has a job, will have that job for the rest of her life. (Which begs an interesting question: what’s the usual life span of slayers? Seems like a high-risk job, but one could conceivably slay well into middle age, no? Or does Buffy break some kind of slayer age record by the end of the series?)
5) Spike and Drusilla are featured prominently. By the end of this two-parter, Martin Landau‘s favourite daughter is back to full strength and Brainiac (that’s right; I watched Smallville) has been crippled by a pipe organ falling onto him. By this point it’s clear Spike and Dru are the boss level bad guys this season.
Reasons to study ‘Ted’:
John Ritter guest-stars as a killer robot who is dating Buffy’s mom.
If you’ve read ‘John Ritter guest-stars as a killer robot’ and you haven’t convinced yourself this is where blog-post solid gold lies, I’m afraid you might not enjoy this week’s installment.
That said, I feel I should do my due diligence and point out some moments of note in the two-part ‘What’s My Line?’
5 Things to Ponder in ‘What’s My Line? (Parts 1 & 2)’
1) Spike obviously cares for Drusilla, which is strange as we’ve not seen any other vampires so lovesick. Angel has been cursed with a soul, so we give him a pass. But why does Spike demonstrate such a range of human (not demon) emotion?
2) Does anyone else think its bizarre that, given Buffy’s continual depression over the burden of being a slayer she’s not relieved when another slayer shows up? One that (on paper) looks like a better slayer candidate. She studies and trains more, for sure. Every episode so far has featured at least one Peter Parker ‘I’ll be Spider-Man no more!’ outburst. But when the bad guys are defeated, Buffy tosses Kendra her shirt like Mean Joe Greene (dated reference?) and sends her back to her (presumably) vampire-free hometown. I mean, they could at least take shifts, am I right?
3) That tumble-roll during the final Buffy-Kendra vs Spike-Drusilla fight is pretty rad. It reminded me of when Batman and Robin would drop some two-combatant moves on henchmen in the Adam West show. In reality, the move seems like way more effort than it’s worth, but it looks impressive.
4) Sarah-Michelle Gellar can really skate! If she joins the next season of Battle of the Blades, I might watch.
5) As I age, I find myself liking Principal Snyder more and more. Armin Shimerman is the bomb. ‘Every word out of your mouth is an airborne toxic event.’ Amazing. Let’s hear it from the Don DeLillo fans in the audience! I’m not sure if the band named themselves after this Buffy line or the novel White Noise it references. Either way, it severely tricked me into thinking I’d like their music.
6) Best line of the episodes: ‘That’s me favourite shirt! That’s me only shirt!’
Okay, but back to more important things: Ted.
‘Ted’ is simply an hour of great Buffy: the Vampire Slayer. It takes the show’s high-school-as-hell metaphor to a genius, genuinely uncomfortable but still highly entertaining end. As Giles puts is (and as is often the case in Buffy) ‘the subtext is rapidly becoming the text.’ Buffy’s mom gets a new boyfriend who seems like the perfect man (he’s got a good job, he can make mini-pizzas; what more do you want?), but slowly ... or quickly ... Buffy realizes he’s a monster. The abusive step-parent story, so popular in fairy tales and movies starring John Locke, gets the Buffy monster makeover. And who should be that abusive father-surrogate but Jack Tripper himself, John Ritter!
Now, I know The Master was that guy in Animal House and those Twisted Sister videos, but as a teenager, I remembered ‘Ted’ was evidence that Buffy had ‘made it.’ This was real guest star. This guy was in the Problem Child movies. And man, does he bring it! Ritter must have taken Robot Mimicry 101 at Julliard or something, because the guy hands in a stellar performance. So genuinely creepy that it’s sometimes uncomfortable to watch. (‘Daddy’s here,’ anyone?)
The show turns the abusive step-parent theme up a notch by implicating Joyce, Buffy’s mom. Joyce, never the most supportive or trusting of mothers at the best of times, refuses to believe Buffy when she suggests Ted threatened her. She doesn’t even ask Ted about it; just assumes Buffy is lying. (She is kind of a liar, after all.) But as absent as Joyce sometimes is, she’s never betrayed her daughter like this.
Most harrowing is the moment when Buffy retaliates after Ted confronts her in her own bedroom (after rummaging through all her slayer gear). First, Ted (having read her diary) calls her delusional. (This foreshadows the most mind-blowing episode of all, ‘Normal Again.’) And when he strikes her, Buffy fights back as if he were a vampire, eventually killing him. This is before we know he’s a robot! (There have been clues, mostly in the neverending parade of robot puns: ‘Who, The Machine?’ ‘I’m not wired that way.’) So, for the first-time viewer, it looks like Buffy just killed a regular man. An awful person, no doubt, but not a demon. Echoes of Faith and a vulcanologist in Season 3 abound.
As a super-nerdy aside, this scene brought flashbacks of a very affecting comic book arc from my youth. In the Marvel comic New Warriors, one of the teen superheroes had an abusive dad. The hero, Marvel Boy, had psychokinetic powers, and one issue fights back, killing his father. (Eventually Marvel Boy goes to trial, with Daredevil as his attorney, and serves hard time, for those who are interested.)
The Scooby gang and Giles attempt to make Buffy feel better about her very first manslaughter. (In one scene, Willow and Xander discover his mini-pizzas are drugged with ecstasy, which they seem to think will exonerate Buffy. Totally Death Wish: he drugged our pizza; he deserved to die.) But luckily, Ted is a robot. An obsessive, chauvanist serial killer robot, so Buffy doesn’t have to deal with her great power and great responsibility issues until a later episode. And that’s probably all the episode analysis I can handle before I feel self-conscious.
As Nikki has mentioned in my bio, I’m an original Buffy watcher. I’m pretty sure my first episode was ‘Halloween,’ and I continued to watch the show religiously, every Tuesday night (surely to the detriment of normal human socialization) throughout high school and university. And when I first started watching it, it was not through the ironic lens of the sophisticated adult I now imagine myself to be. No! It was heartrending and terrifying. It left me in tears at one point or another. Not, like, when I was watching it with friends, but later, when I watched homemade VHS copies by myself in my parents’ bedroom.
And, naturally, I was madly in love with Willow Rosenberg. The only ‘pin-up’ I had in my teenage bedroom was a full-page magazine photo of Alyson Hannigan that a friend had ripped out of Seventeen. The text on the page revealed that Hannigan had a horrid obsession with beanie babies of all things. Yet despite this, I loved her ... and though the crush isn’t nearly as intense as I rewatch, it’s still there. (Alyson Hannigan, if you’re reading this, call me.)
Additionally, when rewatching Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, I realized B:tVS was rarely a solo pursuit for me. Aside from those aforementioned deep-cry sessions in my parents’ bedroom, I always watched Buffy with friends. The show was a social event (of a sort). During high school, I was one of a faithful crew of three devoted viewers stationed in suburban basement, watching vampires, eating brownies and cracking wise. It was Buffy night!
In the film My Winnipeg, director Guy Maddin moves back into his childhood home with his mother, hires actors to portray his siblings and recreate seminal scenes in his youth in an attempt to understand how he’s become the man he is. In that same spirit, I have made the following video response to the episode, ‘Ted,’ wherein I attempt to recreate the original conditions under which I first viewed the show. Please enjoy the following, extremely self-indulgent video short as the remainder of my blog post: