This is for the first-time watcher: Well? Was I right?! Did you get to "Innocence" and realize you are completely hooked and there’s no turning back?
This is the week I’ve been waiting for.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the rewatch, I’ve told many a first-time viewer that they just need to get to the middle of season 2 (i.e. the Surprise/Innocence duet) and they’ll know if Buffy is for them. I’ve only had one person ever get to the end of season 2 and go, “meh.” But that was my brother. And he gave up on Lost and thought season 2 of Breaking Bad was “just okay.” Let’s pretend he never watched Buffy. (Because seriously, when you see what’s in store for the season 2 finale, you’ll think he’s as crazy as I do. I love the guy, but we don't typically agree on TV stuff... except The Wire.)
Now, each week I’ve been preceding the guest commentary with my own thoughts, pulling out highlights and little things I want you to take note of in the episodes. But this week I have three other commentators (in the beginning it was going to be one guest a week, but then people started asking if they could double up with others, and so you’ll see on some of the weeks with popular episodes that we have a lot of people in one week... because basically I’m a pushover and just say yes to everyone!) I’d already written up my commentary for the week when I got the write-ups in from this week’s threesome, and I was surprised at how many similar things we pointed out. So I’ve condensed my section down to a few paragraphs, and that way we can get to the main event(s) without too much repetition.
Well, OK, there’s one thing that no one pointed out, and that’s... why the hell is Joyce drinking her cappuccino with a straw in the opening of “Surprise”?
(I haven’t brought this up much so far, but my comments that precede each guest are in addition to (and in some cases touching upon) what I’ve written in my companion guide, Bite Me. If you’re looking for more explanation of each episode from me, that’s where you’ll find it. I notice each week people in the comments pointing out omissions in what we’ve talked about, and most of those are covered in that book. I’ve got a lot to say about Angelus’s turn in Innocence, for example, that I won’t rehash here.)
Despite being one of the worst eps of season 2, in many ways, “Bad Eggs” really foreshadows the next two episodes (which is really the only thing it’s good for). When Lyle runs away, Buffy says, “Oh sure... they SAY they’ll call,” which foreshadows that Angel won’t even call the day after they have sex. The whole episode is an overblown metaphor for the sturm und drang of early parenthood, and features that scene where the teacher asks students what’s the worst thing that can happen when you have sex as a teenager. Of course, no one says, “Oh! Oh! Pick me! Um... when your boyfriend? He, like, totally turns into an evil, soulless vampire right after sex? When before he was TOTALLY awesome and passionate and sweet and amazing? Like, you know, Edward and stuff?” Notice when Buffy and Angel are snogging in the cemetery; you’ll see a tombstone that says, “In Loving Memory” behind them, as if to suggest the impending death of their relationship.
Of course, the episode does have a line I’ve used often: Xander: “Can I just say, gyeehhhhh...” Buffy: “I see your ‘gyeehhhhh’ and raise you a ‘nyaaah’...”
But... then there’s "Surprise" and "Innocence"... for everyone who’s been saying Boreanaz’s acting hasn’t exactly been compelling so far, you’re in for a treat with Angelus. This is where he truly comes to life, and you see the seeds of the guy he plays on Bones. Boreanaz is a very funny actor, and watching him being broody Angel isn’t nearly as fun as watching him as Angelus. He is DELICIOUS here. I’ve always believed the Angelus/Angel split is the roots of Stephan and Damon on The Vampire Diaries, with Stephan being the broody one (at least in the beginning) and Damon the feisty one. Ian Somerhalder takes what Boreanaz does on Buffy and cranks it way up, bringing even more fun to this idea of a vampire who LOVES what he does.
Ah, "Surprise" and "Innocence." From Drusilla and Buffy having the same birthday (ack!) to Spike’s annoyance with Angelus and watching him take over as the alpha vamp in the lair to Rasputina’s music playing at Dru’s birthday party, these two episodes are ace. I still remember watching the original broadcast on the WB, and it was when Buffy was moved to Tuesday nights from Monday – they made a big deal about it, and Surprise aired on Monday, and Innocence aired the following night, on Tuesday, introducing its new (and from that point on, permanent) time slot. One of the best things about these episodes (other than the emergence of Angelus, of course) is Drusilla. We thought she was creepy before? NOW look at her. She’s not weak, and she’s still as maniacal as ever. And much more dangerous. Holding her fingers to the studious vampire’s eyes and saying, “I’m gonna blow out the candles” has got to be one of my favourite lines in S2. Miss Edith still has a gag over her mouth, but now when Drusilla doesn’t get her way she’s louder and angrier and has a fit like a caffeinated toddler. I LOVE Juliet Landau in this role.
And then there’s Willow and Oz. First we get the banter where Oz says he’s going to ask her out and she says I’ll say yes, then she says no... my heart just melts with joy in that scene. And then when he says, “In my fantasy, when I’m kissing you, you’re kissing me.” Most romantic line ever on Buffy? Maybe. Oh how I ♥ these two. “Willow kissage.” Squeee!!!!
But Angelus. These episodes are most incredible for Angelus. From his low blows about Buffy’s sexual performance to the danger he exudes when he’s around her, everything you see in Innocence is a portent of what’s to come with this character. He’s evil, spiteful, soulless, and he’s got Buffy’s heart and knows exactly how to stomp on it. It’s one thing to kill vampires you don’t know; it’s quite another to kill your soulmate. Will Buffy be able to do it?
I do want to mention that superb scene at the end of Innocence that is one of my favourite throughout the series, and even moreso now that I’m a parent. The first time I saw “Innocence” and Joyce came rushing out with the little cupcake and the candle, I thought it was one of the sweetest parenting moments I’d seen on TV. And the concern on Joyce’s face is so real when she realizes something is terribly wrong with her daughter, but she doesn’t know how to penetrate Buffy’s sadness. Buffy’s final line, “I’ll just let it burn,” before she folds herself into her mother’s arms, is exquisite.
So let’s move on to this week’s guests! First up on deck is the wonderful Steve Halfyard! Many of you enjoyed the Cheeseman’s comments last week, so here she is again to discuss the music on this week’s episodes (by the way, I felt my heart ache when the Buffy/Angel theme was fully realized in these episodes... sigh...)
The Cheeseman Cometh!
And so at last: the moment when the original music of Buffy really gets interesting, the moment when it leaps out of the mundane, run-of-the-mill, Oh-it’s-just-a-TV-show-let’s-just write-something-easy territory and into the far reaches of Wow! Buffy’s music has been on two really different planes up to this point: fantastic, innovative use of indie and unsigned bands playing in the Bronze; and music that for the most part has been fantastically ordinary coming through in the underscore. I’m not even going to mention season 1…
But Christophe Beck changes all this, pretty much single handed. The love theme has been lurking for a while: we heard the first, embryonic version of it way back in the music for “Some Assembly Required” – first when we watch Daryl the Zombie Quarterback, under the bleachers, looking at the guys playing the game, looking at the thing he loves most in the world and absolutely bereft at his loss; and something similar comes back at the end of the episode when Buffy and Angel talk about the potential problems of their relationship (more problematic things to do with love). We get embryo-love theme again (it’s not a theme yet, just a sort of general musical idea) quite earlier on in Ted in the scene where Buffy is tending to Angel’s wounds and moaning about "Ted"; and Angel finally shuts her up by getting her to kiss him. And then, suddenly, in “Surprise,” just a few minutes into the episode, once again Angel puts an end to Buffy’s babbling by kissing her and there we go, huge great gorgeous beautiful love theme. Couldn’t miss it if you tried: easily the most famous theme in all the Buffyverse. It has this one moment as a love theme, and then everything goes rapidly wrong and it becomes a theme as much about Buffy losing Angle as about her loving him. Such is life in Sunnydale.
There’s one other musical bit that I will point out now and say nothing more about, but I need you to remember it. About half way through the episode, we have the dream sequence where Buffy remembers her night of ill-advised passion with Angel. The music here is really quite different from the love theme. It has a really distinctive melody: the intervals are still big (as they are in the LT) but they’re actually bigger and more angular, less obviously lyrical (you trying singing it! much harder than the LT). This is part of what makes the cue unusually exotic; added to which there’s a non-Western wind instrument, a duduk, which is unlike anything we’ve heard in Beck’s scores before; and there’s a drum going like a heartbeat, making it all jolly physical. Anyway, listen and remember. There will be a test later (sometime in April!)
She’s not kidding, guys. There will totally be a test. Nikki’s midterm, “Have you been paying attention?” quiz. Ahem. Start boning up.
I have two new people this week, both Slayage folks and both absolutely brilliant. The first up is Stacey Abbott, who I’m happy to say I’m working with right now on an upcoming book on Supernatural. She and David Lavery have edited together 18 essays into a book called TV Goes to Hell, and I’m their editor on the project (and LOVING the show, by the way... loving it). I first saw her present a paper at Slayage 3 on Wesley from Angel (my favourite character in the Whedonverse), comparing his story arc to that of the boys on Supernatural. Stacey is one of the world’s foremost Angel experts, if not THE expert. She is is a Reader in Film and Television Studies at Roehampton University in London UK where she teaches World Cinema, Genre studies (including horror, rom-coms and musicals), and film language and analysis. She also teaches a class on the Modern Vampire where she gets to discuss her favourite vampire films and TV programs (so yes Buffy and Angel feature prominently). Previously a film snob, her research now focuses extensively on cult television and she has written on her favourite programs including Alias, Buffy, Dexter, Firefly, and Lost. She is the author of Angel: TV Milestone, the editor of Reading Angel: The TV Spin-off With a Soul and is currently co-writing a book on TV horror with fellow-Buffy scholar Lorna Jowett.
She’s also a Canadian who is living in the UK, which means… she spells words the same way I do! So please welcome… Stacey Abbott!
“Goodbye Sweetheart”: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Grows Up
I would like to thank Nikki for inviting me to take part in the Buffy Rewatch. I was particularly pleased to be able to write about these episodes because when I am asked, and I’m often asked, what season of Buffy I think is the best, I usually respond that I think season three is the best (the series is consistently good from beginning to end) but season two is my favourite. Not I should add because of “Bad Eggs” but because of “Surprise”/“Innocence” or at least the narrative arc developed in these episodes. My first experience watching Buffy was during season two. The episode was “The Dark Age” – a strange first episode as its story is dependent upon knowing quite a bit about the show. Without knowing Giles, how can you appreciate the impact of his strange behaviour on Buffy or the revelation of his past as Ripper? If you’ve never seen Angel before, and don’t really know anything about the show’s conception of the vampire, let alone his story about the curse, how can you understand the ending? There was, however, enough there to make me go back to the beginning. From Buffy’s arrival in Sunnydale in “Welcome to the Hellmouth” I was hooked and by the time the Scooby gang is fully formed and pulling together to save the world in “Prophecy Girl”, I knew that this show was going to be great. But of course, once you’ve surrounded Buffy with a loyal team of “Slayerettes” what is there for the writing team to do….but pull them apart. And that is what season two is all about. Buffy and her friends face challenges and strains to their friendship in this season that rise far above the demon as metaphor for teenage problems narratives of season one. This is the season when they, and the show along with it, begin to grow up. Now not all of the episodes are great. Having made the transition from a twelve episode mid-season replacement to a full season of twenty-two episodes, it is not surprising that the show is somewhat uneven. While some episodes are genius others are functional and others are bad...but that is the nature of commercial serial television. Each episode can’t be genius or works of art but when they are, you appreciate them all the more. So this brings us to this week’s episodes.
Many people consider “Bad Eggs” to be the worst episode of the season. When looking at the list of episodes, it is definitely in my bottom two, along with “Go Fish”. But I’m not sure if I would say it is bad but rather it is weak. There are things I like about “Bad Eggs”. I enjoy that this is Buffy’s attempt at a science-fiction-style episode about mind-control and alien (or in this case demon) invasion with clear allusions to Robert A. Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters (1951), the classic SF/horror films Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986). I also like that the names of the vampire villains of the episode, the Gorch Brothers, are taken from Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969). The suggestion that after the blood bath that ends the film, Lyle and Tector Gorch became vampires is priceless, and means that I can never again watch the film in quite the same way. This film student-style joke appeals to me. [*Nikki here: I also wanted to mention that along with the Gorch brothers in that film, one of the vigilantes is named Angel, and another is Pike, which not only sounds a lot like Spike, but I believe there was a character in the original Buffy movie named Pike.] I like the fact that Willow is the one who seems to become the leader of the Bezoar (the demon laying the eggs)’s minions. Later, when she hits Buffy and calmly orders Buffy’s death, we see a hint of the Dark Willow to come. Also, Xander’s glib attitude to his parenting homework assignment wherein he not only boils his egg in order to avoid damaging it but then decides, when his snacks run out, that he will eat it serve as early evidence that Xander has a troubled family life.
The weakness of the episode is partly due to the fact that the Gorches are comic McGuffins and not the primary Big Bad of the episode, which is the Bezoar. But the Bezoar is an off screen villain, lacking personality. It is only briefly glimpsed through the cracks in the basement foundation and as a result we are denied access to Buffy’s final confrontation with it, making the ending fundamentally unsatisfying. Buffy’s fight to the death begins and ends too quickly to create a genuine sense of threat. The other reason that this episode seems weak is of course that it is situated between “What’s My Line Part 1 & 2”, and “Surprise”/“Innocence” in which Buffy is confronted by genuinely dangerous, and morally, and emotionally, complex villains. Here the threat to Buffy, both physically and emotionally, is palpable. But that is the nature of serial television. While “Bad Eggs” could have been better, you do need a monster of the week episode at this point in the season, if only so that the audience does not see what is coming next. The only clue to future events in the episode is that among all of the alien invasion hijinks, Buffy and Angel’s relationship seems to be escalating. But these moments in which they are repeatedly caught snogging…(too British?) …necking (not a good idea with a vampire)… ok…kissing seem sweet and innocent, lulling the audience into a sense of security before things get really serious.
“Surprise”, in classic Marti Noxon fashion, is a darkly disturbing episode about pain, sex and death masked behind the veneer of teen romance. The opening prophetic dream sequence in which Angel is murdered by Drusilla is quickly displaced by the episode’s seeming preoccupation with heating up the relationships of our teenage couples. This is first established by Buffy’s discussion about whether it is time for her and Angel to “seize the day” and take their relationship to the next stage, and then neatly contrasted with the innocence and humour of Willow’s encounter with Oz when he tells her that he is going to ask her out:
Oz: I’m gonna ask you to go out with me tomorrow night and I’m kinda nervous about it actually. It’s interesting.
Willow: Oh. Well if it helps at all, I’m gonna say yes.
Oz: Yeah, it helps. It creates a comfort zone. Do you want to go out with me tomorrow night?
Willow: Oh! I can’t.
Oz: Well, see, I like that you are unpredictable.
This scene [along with Willow’s gleeful line as she walks away from Oz: “I said date”] is one of a long list of touching moments between the two characters as their relationship evolves. Willow and Oz remind the audience that first love need not be all angst and torment as in Buffy and Angel’s passionate relationship. They are able to overcome their problems -- that is until season four -- and their first sexual encounter is a healthy and positive experience, albeit taking place just before a potential apocalypse (“Graduation Day Part 2”), standing in contrast with Buffy’s traumatic experience in “Innocence”. Similarly the heat of Angel and Buffy is innocently paralleled by Xander and Cordelia continuing to grope each other in the closet but without knowing how to classify their relationship or where it is leading. The grown-ups, however remind us that relationships are complicated things. While Jenny and Giles seem to be overcoming the strain on their relationship after Jenny’s possession in “Dark Ages”, the revelation of Jenny’s secret identity and hidden agenda tells us that their relationship faces trouble ahead. Finally, the return of Spike and Drusilla, as they plan both Drusilla’s coming out party and the end of the world, provides us with a model for a twisted love affair. The drive toward the sexual maturity of our characters is fraught with tension and potential disaster.
Linked to this theme, the return of Drusilla also introduces an interesting parallel between her and Buffy that prepares us for the devastating outcome of Buffy and Angel’s first, and only, sexual encounter (that is until the Angel episode “I Will Remember You” which also leads to pain and sacrifice this time for Angel). Drusilla repeatedly appears in Buffy’s dreams, and it is later revealed that she has been having similar dreams. Spike is throwing a party for Drusilla, celebrating her return to health, just like the Scooby Gang are planning a party for Buffy’s birthday. Drusilla tells Spike that her party will be the “best party ever…because it will be the last” and while Buffy’s party is not her last, it feels like it will be when it is disrupted by the revelation of Spike and Drusilla’s plans to destroy the world and the decision that Angel needs to leave Sunnydale in order to prevent them from completing their plan. This mirror effect helps us unravel Buffy’s dreams in which she sees Drusilla stake Angel through the heart for it is Buffy who will destroy Angel when she sleeps with him (or at least that is how she will come to see it) and also that she will be forced to stab him through the heart in order to save the world (“Becoming Part 2”). But more importantly, it prepares us for the fact that Angelus will seek to destroy Buffy with the same cruel approach he applied to Drusilla as he explained to Buffy in “Lie to Me”. All roads it seems are leading to the shocking moment that bridges “Surprise” and “Innocence” as Angel and Buffy’s post-coital sleep is disrupted when Angel wakes up with a blast of pain, and calls Buffy’s name before his soul is ripped from him.
When rewatching “Innocence” a number of things stand out. This is the episode where we really begin to see that David Boreanaz can act. While he broods very convincingly up to this point, as an actor he is given little to do except be an idealised romantic lead for Buffy. With the release of Angelus, Boreanaz clearly relishes his ability to play twisted humour alongside a darkly menacing performance. Angelus takes delectable pleasure in the pain he causes, and the series invites the audience to enjoy it along with him while also feeling Buffy’s pain – no small feat. Angelus is so much more fun to watch than Angel especially in his scenes with Drusilla and Spike. Written and directed by Joss Whedon, this episode introduces the perverse and delicious ménage-a-trois that defines their vampiric relationship. Well known for his preference for long takes, Whedon makes some of his best use of the long take to film the three vampires in the factory as they mock, tease and torment each other. At first these long takes show a twisted unity between the vampires but when Angelus and Drusilla are filmed leaving the wheel-chair bound Spike behind in the frame when they take the Judge to the mall to begin his Armageddon, we see a glimpse of the fracture to come in “Becoming Part 1 & 2”.
Whedon also includes a number of mirror images from the previous episode designed to offer a twisted reflection of Buffy and Angel/us. Just before they make love in “Surprise” Buffy and Angel are framed in an extreme and intimate close up, with Buffy on the left and Angel on the right, as they struggle against their desire for each other, while in “Innocence” they are framed in a mirror-image extreme close [with Angelus on the left and Buffy on the right] as Angel, now revealed as Angelus, kisses Buffy and tells her that “things are about to get very interesting”. Similarly, the early morning meeting between Buffy and Angel in his apartment after her first dream, in which Buffy reveals that she would like to see Angel “before bedtime”, is brutally mirrored in their post-coital encounter when Angel/us delivers some of his most painful dialogue (“You got a lot to learn about me kiddo. But I guess you proved that last night”), climaxing in his flippant “Love you too” as he leaves her behind (a line that usually results in an audible gasp from my students with one student, unable to control himself, bursting out with a very loud ‘bastard!’). Whedon’s directorial style begins to show the sophistication that will come to define such classic episodes of Buffy – “Restless” and “Hush” – and Angel –“Waiting in the Wings” and “Spin the Bottle”.
Another key observation from this viewing is that while Buffy and the Scooby Gang come to distinguish the ensouled Angel from his soulless alter ego by calling them Angel and Angelus respectively, in this episode, Angel continues to refer to himself as Angel. In fact when Drusilla hesitatingly calls him Angel when he arrives at the factory, he responds with ‘Hey baby I’m back’ and later when Jenny tells Willow that it isn’t Angel, his response is: “I am Angel…At last”. This fits well with the season one episode of Angel (‘Warzone’) in which Angel introduces himself to a group of gang-like vampires he wants to intimidate with: “The name’s Angelus”. The suggestion here, which is repeatedly reinforced in Angel, is that the line between Angel and Angelus is a blurred one and the clear distinction that Buffy likes to make between the two is created in order to make it easier for her to accept his loss and to eventually kill him. This transition in Angel introduces a moral ambiguity into the series and to Angel’s status as a reluctant vampire, an ambiguity that will become a central theme in Angel.
So Angel brings the fun to this episode and Buffy brings the pain. The confusion, guilt and loss she feels is never more tangibly portrayed then at the end of the episode in two scenes with parental figures Giles and Joyce. With Giles, Buffy expresses her guilt and shame for disappointing him through her actions but, in one of my favourite father/daughter scenes between the two, Giles refuses to admonish her or accept her guilt but instead acknowledges her growing maturity by offering her his love, support and respect. Later as Buffy and Joyce celebrate her birthday by watching an old Hollywood musical on TV, Buffy refuses to blow out her birthday candle, choosing to quietly watch it burn. Buffy gently resting her head on her mother’s shoulder and Joyce’s silent look, knowing something has happened but recognising that Buffy needs support and not questioning, speaks more to loss and the pain of growing up then all of the histrionics and speech-making that one would expect from the ‘very special’ TV episodes that Whedon abhorred. As the episode fades out on the song, ‘Goodbye Sweetheart’, emanating from the Summers’ television, Buffy the Vampire Slayer grows up as well.
Thank you, Stacey! Next up is Tanya Cochran, who is a founding board member and officer of the Whedon Studies Association (an organization devoted to the academic study of Joss Whedon and his associates). I referred to her in the Slayage 4 roundup last year as the one who did an amazing paper on fan-scholars (that would be me) versus scholar-fans (that’s most of the people I’m featuring on here) and how they could come together in harmony. This rewatch, I think, is a perfect way to put into practice what she suggested in her paper. Tanya’s publications include essays in the collections Televising Queer Women (Palgrave, 2008); Sith, Slayers, Stargates + Cyborgs: Modern Mythology in the New Millennium (Lang, 2009); and Buffy in the Classroom: Essays on Teaching the Vampire Slayer (McFarland, 2010), and she is co-editor with Rhonda V. Wilcox of Investigating Firefly and Serenity: Science Fiction on the Frontier (Tauris, 2008).
Please welcome Tanya!
Let It Burn: Buffy, Sex, Responsibility, and Consequences
Tanya R. Cochran
When I first signed on for the Buffy Rewatch, I didn’t know I’d have the privilege of writing about some of the most moving and noteworthy episodes of the series. (It’s kind of intimidating, because there’s way too much to write about. I’ll be leaving a lot of wonderful stuff out. ) “Surprise” and “Innocence” are those episodes many of us who evangelize for the series use to entice potential converts through the campiness of the first season. “If you just make it to ‘Surprise’ and ‘Innocence,’ you won’t stop watching,” we promise. I have secured many a new believer with such a testimony. I admit that I didn’t really care to write about “Bad Eggs,” which comes just before the dynamic duo, until I watched the three episodes in succession after having not watched them in many, many years. I saw connections I didn’t see before. That’s what re-watching provides, I suppose. And what struck me the most about the triptych was their profound cohesion.
“Bad Eggs” begins with one of only a few shots in the series of the Sunnydale mall. For all of Buffy’s stereotypical, consumerist, teenaged girl talk about shopping, we rarely actually see her there. But here we find her running errands and browsing with her mom. To save time, Joyce sends Buffy after a dress at Everyday Woman, a store Buffy declares might as well be called “Muumuus R Us” (one on my favorite lines in the episode). Of course, Buffy is distracted from this task by a vampire she attempts to dispatch in the arcade before he drains an unsuspecting adolescent girl. At this point in the series, the dialogue especially between Buffy and her mother oozes double meaning and irony. A brilliant such moment comes when Joyce chastises Buffy for not completing her assigned task: picking up her mother’s dress.
“A little responsibility, Buffy, that’s all I ask. Honestly, don’t you ever think about anything besides boys and clothes?”
“Saving the world from vampires.”
Long pause. Long stare. “Honestly, Buffy, I don’t know what goes on in your head.”
This opening sequence, particularly Joyce’s request for “a little responsibility,” sets the stage for one of the central themes of the episode, a theme that actually foreshadows “Surprise” and “Innocence”: with sex come consequences — for better or for worse. Or in this ’verse, for better and for worse. In typical Whedon fashion, we viewers are stoked with pleasure before having the flames of our fun reduced to an ember. In other words, there is a lot of kissing, grunting, and groaning going on in this episode — enough to make us giggle. Xander makes out with Cordelia in the broom closet. Buffy smooches Angel in the graveyard, in the park, at her bedroom window, . . . basically wherever and whenever she can.
With all of these youthful hormones raging, as the science teacher Mr. Whitmore explains, it is important for the high-schoolers to consider and hypothetically experience the consequences of acting on their urges. What better way to teach teenagers responsibility than to assign them raw eggs as offspringy homework?! (Yes, read that sentence with a sarcastic tone.) Yet part of my delight in this episode comes from the eggs themselves, simultaneously symbols of fragility and fertility, vulnerability and potential power.
At breakfast the following day, Buffy sets Eggbert — tucked into a basket, swaddled in a blanket — on the countertop. Joyce wonders, “Are you sure your egg is secure in that?” Buffy retorts, “Did I ask for backseat mommying?” The two might as well be talking about Buffy’s consideration of a proper prophylactic. But Buffy doesn’t have to worry about preventing pregnancy: Angel gently explains later that evening that he can’t give her a child the same way a human lover could. Protecting her “egg” isn’t the issue, unless that egg is actually her heart. But she doesn’t see that. “All I see is you. All I want is you,” she declares to Angel. Of course, she will have him, and he her. The two begin to kiss (yet again), and the camera pans right, sweeping across a tombstone that warns: “In Loving Memory.” Oh crap. Yep, get ready for pain.
“Bad Eggs” continues with lots of kissing and loads of irony: in the end, Buffy and Xander — the two teens who flirt the most with succumbing to their raging hormones — save the day because they are the only ones who escape “penetration,” and thus mind control, by the creepy crawlies that hatch from their demonized eggs. A confused and flustered Joyce, after herself being rescued, still grounds Buffy for not being responsible.
This theme of responsibility and consequences — not to be equated with each other — continues to play out in both “Surprise” and “Innocence.” Even in Whedon’s interview on the DVD extra for “Surprise,” he notes that Buffy and Angel’s romance leads to “appalling consequences.” He and his team knew from the start that this “classical star-crossed romance” would be difficult, but that difficulty, notes Whedon, “would be where all the fun was.” Of course, Whedon doesn’t mean “fun” as in fun. He means without Buffy and Angel’s relationship feeling authentic, emotionally resonating, who would care? No one. That’s the point.
In Whedon’s commentary for “Innocence,” he explains (as most of us know) that he created Buffy to be the blonde girl from the horror genre who doesn’t die early in the movie, the blonde who dies partly because she has had sex. Whedon says that though he didn’t want to perpetuate the message that premarital sex should be punished, he also didn’t want to send the message that sex doesn’t have costs. Then he straightforwardly admits, “I punish the shit out of [Buffy].” He just doesn’t kill her — again . . . or right now.
Obviously, (so I won’t make a list) “Surprise” is full of surprises — for the characters and for the audience. Just as obviously, “Innocence” is full of lost innocence(s) — for the characters and for the audience. Beyond these transparent titles, the way the episodes complement and complicate each other and foretell future episodes is simply stunning.
“Surprise” begins with a dream. Buffy and Joyce are in the kitchen. Echoing the tone of her question — “Are you sure your egg is secure in that?” — in “Bad Eggs,” Joyce asks, “Do you really think you’re ready, Buffy?” The plate in Joyce’s hands slips, falls, and shatters as it hits the floor. Then the dream places Buffy in the warehouse where she finds Drusilla holding Angel hostage. Dru taunts Buffy before raising her stake to dust Angel, the “sire” on much more than vampiric states of being. Look closely. Buffy and Dru wear the same full-length, white dress. Sarah Swain suggests that Dru “stands in as Buffy’s dark double,” a symbol of both unfettered desire and culpability in Angel’s un-souling . Much more than the obvious symbol of white as purity and virginity that signals Dru as Buffy, this costuming and framing echoes Buffy’s encounter with the Master and anticipates a scene at the very end of the series when Buffy will make another life-altering decision that has “appalling consequences.” Before Dru’s stake falls, Angel extends his hand, and the camera focuses on his and Buffy’s fingers reaching for each other, another almost identical image used in the forthcoming season finale.
It seems that some of the impending consequences explored in “Surprise” and “Innocence” will have to do with brokenness, with separation. It is appropriate, then, that the villain in these episodes, the Judge, embodies the task of separating good from evil, of breaking forth Armageddon. As Cynthea Masson reminded us two weeks ago, accomplishing that separation is not so simple in the Buffyverse. Even Spike and Drusilla “stink of humanity,” says the Judge, because they love each other. It is also appropriate, then, that Buffy ultimately annihilates the Judge with a rocket launcher, literally and symbolically destroying unsophisticated beliefs, understandings, pronouncements. Herein lies the beauty of lasting stories, of Whedon’s every text: the narrative never insults its audience with simplistic formulas for living, for loving, for dying. Whedon is right: there is some “fun,” some significance — however painful — in that complexity.
Any viewer can feel Buffy’s pain as she anticipates Angel trekking around the globe to keep the Judge from being assembled and begs him not to go (the tragic emotional intensity of the dock scene reminds me of the poignant Angel episode “I Will Remember You”), as she awakes to an empty bed in Angel’s apartment, as she is humiliated by Angelus in that very same space later on, as she realizes what their love-making has brought about, as she must choose between love and duty, as she faces the shell of her lover now the vessel of her enemy, as she expresses her shame and guilt to Giles in the car at the end of “Innocence.” Yet the pain retains a touch of beauty, of the sublime because that pain is never completely senseless. Giles makes sure both Buffy and we know as much, even as he prepares her and us for the road (i.e., hero’s journey) ahead: “Do you want me to wag my finger at you and tell you you acted rashly? You did, and I can. But I know you loved him, and he has proven more than once that he loved you. You couldn’t have known what would happen. The coming months are going to be very hard — I suspect on all of us. But if you’re looking for guilt, Buffy, I’m not your man. All you will have from me is my support . . . and my respect.”
I imagine Whedon himself saying these words to the audience. The comedy and tragedy of living suggests, as Buffy reasons with Willow at the beginning of “Surprise,” we can act on our desires or not act. Either way, we can’t be completely sure of the outcomes, and guilt and shame don’t really help. What helps is family, support, and respect — people who will remain by your side as you deal with the consequences. Buffy regularly takes responsibility, as many of us do. But consequences rain down on the good and the evil — the good who are a little bit evil, the evil who are a little bit good. Consequences themselves are amoral. “And me? What was I supposed to be paying for,” Buffy begs of Ms. Calendar when Jenny explains the gypsy curse on Angelus. I think that’s one of Whedon’s many points: being (ir)responsible isn’t always bound to good or bad consequences. Actions simply have them. At the same time, we are not slaves to circumstances. Neither is Buffy. We have choices. So does she. And we can weather a whole lot. In his commentary, Whedon says that Buffy experiences in “Surprise” and “Innocence” the “baptism of adolescent fire.” A baptism purifies, which is why Whedon can go on to say that Buffy is still innocent. “You look the same to me,” Joyce counters when Buffy states that all she did for her birthday was get older.
This final scene—Buffy and Joyce on the couch chatting over a cupcake and an old film—made Whedon happier than the rocket launcher scene, he claims. It had “such sweetness . . . They leave me with the exact feeling I wanted to have at the end of this: of regret, of loss, of love.” We viewers feel the same. We love Buffy and Buffy because we all have experienced some sort of baptism by fire. And sometimes there seems like nothing to do about it except endure, sit still, wait. Even that response, though, is a choice.
“Well, go on. Make a wish,” Joyce prompts.
“I’ll just let it burn.”
 For some thought-provoking scholarship on these episodes, start with Rhonda V. Wilcox’s Why Buffy Matters (Tauris, 2005), Gregory Stevenson’s Televised Morality (Hamilton, 2003), Diane DeKelb-Rittenhouse’s “Sex and the Single Vampire” in Fighting the Forces (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002), and Melanie Wilson’s “Buffy’s Dream in ‘Surprise’” in Buffy Meets the Academy (McFarland, 2009). There are many other discussions worth reading, of course.
 See page 175 of Sarah Swain’s essay “Losing It: The Construction of Virginity in Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in Sexual Rhetoric in the Works of Joss Whedon edited by Erin B. Waggoner (McFarland, 2010).
Next week: Laughter, surprises, and big big pain. Just another week in the Whedonverse! Next week's guests will be David Kociemba, Rhonda Wilcox, and Steve Halfyard as we watch:
Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered
What an AWESOME week that will be.