Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Buffy Rewatch Week 11

2.18 Killed By Death
2.19 I Only Have Eyes for You
2.20 Go Fish

This is that difficult week of episodes that happens after the manic pace of last week’s (“Phases,” “BBB,” and “Passion”) and before the jaw-dropping awesomeness of the “Becoming” two-parter season finale next week. Our guest this week will look at what that means for these episodes within the arc of the season, so I won’t get into it much other than to say they’re rarely listed among the fan favourites.

But I have to say, I’ve never listed them as ones that were bad. It’s just their unfortunate juxtaposition – had the subject matter come before “Surprise” and “Innocence,” perhaps fans would have been kinder to them. On their own, I think they’re very good… and in the case of “I Only Have Eyes for You,” great.

“Killed by Death” has never been a fave of mine. It takes place away from familiar locations – the library, Buffy’s house – and is focused more on Buffy and her childhood problem more than the other characters. And coming on the heels of “Passion,” it was a disappointment when, following the shocking horror of Jenny’s death, Giles seemed to be puttering around the hospital and not openly grieving. But… that’s not really Giles. Yeah, he pulls a Lost Weekend when he thinks he’s effed up so badly people are going to be seriously hurt, but when the people HAVE been hurt and he can no longer help them, he buries himself in his duties to hide the pain he’s feeling.

When I checked my write-up for it that I put in Bite Me, it was the first entry where I disagreed with my much-younger self who wrote that, oh, a decade ago. In it I said if there’s some sort of metaphor here, I didn’t get it. But watching it now, I do get it. In the hospital, the children can see the horrors that the adults can’t. In the FOX show, Fringe, we discover that scientist Walter Bishop once ran tests on young children, giving them a particular drug that could heighten powers he believes we’re all born with, but as we get older certain parts of our brain become inactive and, effectively, kills off our potential. Similarly, these children still have eyes open to the nightmares and bogeymen, where the adults in their lives no longer believe in such fancies. This idea brings us back to one of the essential themes of the series – that Buffy might appear to be a “kid,” but she knows more and has seen more than most adults will ever see. She’s an old, wise mind in a young person’s body (this becomes more obvious in later seasons once she’s out of high school).

Some extra notes:
• One fun game you can play with this week’s trio of episodes is “Spot the Guest Character Who Went on to Bigger Things.” In this episode, we see Stanford from Sex and the City playing the security guard that Cordy tries to seduce.
• I see that Buffy’s borrowed Kendra’s silver Aladdin pants for her hospital sojourn.

When Buffy first aired, “Killed by Death” aired on March 3, and then the show went on a seven-week hiatus. When the show returned on April 28, many fans were swept up in the romance and wonder of “I Only Have Eyes for You.” I adored the ghost story, and when Buffy and Angelus stepped into the roles – and we saw Angel again for the first time in a long time. See, for us rewatching – even for the first-timers – it’s only been a couple of weeks since Angel went to the Dark Side. But at the time, he turned bad on January 20, and this is the first time in three months that we saw a glimmer of the old Angel again. So it had been a very loooooong time since we’d seen him, and it was glorious. I especially loved Buffy taking the man’s role, and Angel – who is often seen as the feminized side of Angelus – is the woman. It brings up the important idea of forgiveness, something the ghost needs to move on. If Buffy ever gets the souled Angel back, will she ever be able to forgive him for what his demony counterpart did?

Some extra notes:
• Apparently when Angel loses his soul and begins sporting the hot leather pants, Buffy switches to skintight… gold ones.
• John Hawkes!!! I’d completely forgotten he was in this episode. Sol Star from Deadwood, Lennon from Lost, and an Oscar nominee. Who’d have thunk the janitor from this episode would have gone on to such critical acclaim?
• Also, James, the 1950s ghost, is Henry from Ugly Betty; the teacher the janitor shoots when they’re possessed was Cousin Eddie’s wife in the Vacation films; Meredith Salinger was in several movies in the 80s and early 90s (I always think of her in that Jimmy Reardon movie with my teenage boyfriend, River Phoenix).
• The director of this episode is the son of actor James Whitmore.
• Snyder returns! I’d forgotten how much he looked like a rat.
• How odd that Jenny’s computer is back on her desk with all her lesson plans on it… didn’t we watch Angel burn it in Passion?
• Giles needing that ghost to be Jenny was heartbreaking. I still I get a catch in my throat when Willow looks at him and says, “Jenny could never be this mean!”
• Where’s Samuel Jackson when you need him? I’d love to see him walk into the school and say, “Why are there motherf***ing snakes in this motherf***ing cafeteria?!”
• Angel tells Buffy that he loved her with his last breath… and he’s telling the truth.
• Spike standing up from the wheelchair is one of the highlights of the season for me. He’s like the vampire John Locke!!

“Go Fish” is a much-maligned episode within the longstanding Buffy fandom, but I actually don’t mind it. I mean, it’s worth it for that scene where Xander enters in slow-mo in the Speedo. Comedy gold. (Joss Whedon always joked that Xander’s body was far too ripped to be nerdly, so he tried to show him shirtless as many times as possible as an in-joke.) And the scene where the fish creature jumps into the pool, and Cordy begins her long speech to it thinking it’s Xander is a very important moment in the development of her character. Even though she’s back with him post-Valentine’s Day, there’s still a sense of superiority she holds over him. “I’m better than you, you’re a nerd, and you should be happy that I’ve lowered myself to be with you.” But in this scene – even as she believes Xander’s been turned into a fish!! – she professes her true love for him, telling him she’ll stand by him and even get him extra bath toys (LOL!) I love this scene, and it’s where our sympathies truly begin to turn in Cordy’s favour.

Some extra notes:
• Xander: “It’s especially nippy. So say my nips.”
• Gage is played by Wentworth Miller, who starred on Prison Break.
• I honestly don’t buy the whole Willow-as-teacher thing. How does that work within the teacher’s union? How is a student teaching the class? What would that do to student-teacher politics? If Willow was harassed and disrespected by students before, wouldn’t they come down on her even harder now? Is there honestly not one single teacher in the area who could sub in for Jenny?? And even if this is a whole “Snyder keeping everything on the down-low” thing, I still don’t buy it. Aren’t her parents wondering why their daughter isn’t being paid? And if she IS being paid, how is that being worked out with the other teachers? “Oh, great… she’s had half a year of computer training but I guess she’s as qualified to teach high school as I am… after several years of university and practical training.” And yes… I understand the irony here that I have no problem with the swim team turning into sea creatures but I do have a problem with the practicality of Willow being a substitute teacher. ;)
• Buffy’s use of “from whence it came.”
• Jonathan ♥♥♥
• Buffy: There’s just something about the smell of chlorine on a guy. Oh baby.”
• Buffy on Xander’s worry he’ll turn into a fish: “Let’s not break out the tartar sauce just yet.” LOL!
• Xander correcting Cordy on the difference between the creature from the blue lagoon and the black: “The creature from the blue lagoon was Brooke Shields.”
• I love Buffy and Willow eating the popcorn while watching the swim team. Watch for the popcorn bucket to pop up again and again in weird moments.

This week I once again welcome Steve Halfyard for a small slice of cheese as she discusses the use of music in this week’s group of episodes:

You have to admire the way Beck’s music remembers and connects up ideas from earlier episodes. “I Only Have Eyes For You” brings in another little twist on the Love Theme for the two ghosts. We first here it in Buffy’s ‘dream’ about their moment together in the class room – it has the first three notes of the LT, but with an extra note added on the beginning and the end – the note at the start makes is a little bit discordant and gives it an extra yearning. It comes back again when the janitor and teacher are possessed; and then, when Buffy and Angel are possessed at the end, we get another version which is closer to the original LT, but still not quite right (for obvious narrative reasons – they aren’t quite Buffy and Angel at that point). Also, note the fragment of the Giles/ Jenny theme from “Passion” when Willow gives Giles Jenny’s necklace, and how it starts sneaking back in (in the oboe) when Giles hears the sound of the janitor and teacher fighting, thinks it may be Jenny’s ghost and rushes off to try and find her: but the full theme never quite arrives, because, of course, Jenny is not there.


Thanks, Steve! And now it’s my pleasure to introduce Ian Klein. Ian’s featured on my blog a few times in some of my anecdotes. I met him on a shuttle from the Little Rock airport to the Slayage conference in 2008, and my friend Sue and I began hanging out with him and Ryan, also from that shuttle. We all stayed in touch (and I got together with Ian in the interim when I was in NY on business) and at the last Slayage we did the conference first, and then went to Universal Studios, where we stayed in a huge suite in Holiday Inn and went on rollercoasters and rides and saw Harry Potter land and ate tons and tried this awesome Mexican place and had a blast. He’s brilliant. (And he’ll probably kill me for running that photo, but seriously… adorable, right? We saw this old car at Universal and I told him to pose, and you don’t have to ask him twice.)

Ian G. Klein earned his BA with Honors from the University of Washington. He is currently studying at Columbia University in pursuit of an MFA in Dramaturgy, which will be completed in Spring 2012. Ian first experienced the work of Joss Whedon when he started watching Buffy in anticipation of an assignment concerning fandom during his senior year of college. He has since become a charter associate member of The Whedon Studies Association and has presented papers at several academic conferences, including The Slayage Conference on the Whedonverses and meetings of the National Popular and American Culture Associations. His most recent publication was “'I Like My Scars': Claire Saunders and the Narrative of Flesh” in the SmartPop book, Inside Joss’s Dollhouse. You can read an interview with Ian here, and he blogs regularly here (and if you haven’t been checking out his site, please do: he’s been following our rewatch since January and doing his own weekly posts, which have been excellent!)

Without any further ado, please welcome the wonderful Ian Klein!

“A Little More Fallout”: Life After Trauma on the Hellmouth
Ian G. Klein

If there’s a task more daunting to me than writing about some of the most iconic episodes in the series like “Surprise,” “Innocence,” and “Passion,” it’s writing about the trio of episodes that rests between “Passion” and the epic two-parter “Becoming” that concludes the show’s second season. These three episodes are not unlike many other episodes of the series, especially from the first season. But placing episodes that signal a return to the quieter tone and content at this point in season 2 (which is so fraught with violence, grief and drastic character transformations) can seem like a step back on the part of the show’s progress both in season 2 and the series as a whole.

When I knew I would be writing about “Killed by Death,” “I Only Have Eyes For You,” and “Go Fish” I thought the only way to write about them would be as discrete units through the monster-of-the-week lens as I perceived these episodes to be based on my last complete viewing of the series in late 2007/early 2008. Even when I started watching these episodes I was still skeptical not only as to how they related to the compelling story arc they were housed between but as to how they related to each other. How could these episodes be so “ordinary” amidst such greatness?

As I finished this close rewatch, I realized this question was also the answer. These episodes serve as a kind of unholy trilogy of the ordinary in the midst of life’s greater conflicts. Just because your boyfriend dumps you, turns evil, and wreaks havoc on your city, doesn’t mean life gives you a break from the rest of the world’s troubles. Life goes on after trauma. Our bodies and minds continue to be affected through extended suffering. As Buffy later says in the season 2 finale, “Becoming, Part 2”, “It doesn’t stop. It never stops.” The Hellmouth doesn’t stop speaking.

I am currently an MFA candidate in Dramaturgy at Columbia University in my last semester of classes. If there’s one thing I won’t miss as a non-student, it’s my body’s tendency to break down the moment I turn in the last of what is often five final projects. For the last x number of years, getting sick or being overcome with fatigue happens like clockwork at the end of a semester. So what happens to Buffy immediately following the loss of her boyfriend’s soul and the death of Jenny Calendar caused by said soulless boyfriend? She gets sick.

In “Killed by Death,” Buffy’s mother, Joyce, tells Giles “Buffy’s been so down since [Jenny’s death] happened. I mean, she never gets sick.” Our bodies have a way of reminding us when it is time to slow down and relinquish some of our daily responsibilities in order to repair, not only physically but mentally. It might not normally occur for her or us as the audience to think that she would be stopped by something so mortal, so human, when she is so super-human.

Non-Slayers, a category that includes myself, tend to use this same logic for ourselves too. We often think we’re superhuman and this false perception of ourselves can be compounded by our ability to come out victorious on the other side of seemingly impossible tasks through sheer adrenaline. But life takes a toll and at some point the choice to remove ourselves from the world for a spell no longer is a choice. The Slayer, however, does not have the luxury of stopping being the Slayer. Sometimes the fight comes to you when you’re down and you have to fight back.

We have to keep living in a world of constant threats despite our internal afflictions. In Buffy, these threats are both literal and metaphorical. In our world, the demons we face don’t have horns, pointy teeth or fish heads, but it’s true that some of the forces we confront in our lives like trauma can’t be seen at all. In these three episodes, the unseen threat is represented by the fever in “Killed by Death,” poltergeists in “I Only Have Eyes for You” and internally driven metamorphoses in “Go Fish.” In this tripartite treatise on trauma, it’s not just Buffy who is affected. The recent tragic events in Sunnydale have also disturbed Giles, Xander, Willow, and even Cordelia in different ways. Nothing will be the same, but in their shared trauma, they come together stronger than ever. There is hope when it comes to recovery from trauma but not before it may take over both body and mind. In each of the episodes, someone must succumb to potentially life-threatening conditions in order to defeat a given threat. They must endure the trauma, even embrace it in order to overcome it.

In “Killed by Death” this takes place as Buffy willingly infects herself with the flu so that her perception is fundamentally altered and she can see Der Kindestod, the demon that sucked the life out of sick children. The effects of this selfless act are twofold. First, she reaffirms her identity as the Slayer as she tells Ryan, “We both know that there are real monsters. But there’s also real heroes that fight monsters and that’s me.” Second, she works out personal trauma not only by moving forward from the deeply affecting ordeal with Angel but an older trauma: being the sole witness to her cousin Celia’s brutal death at the hands of Der Kindestod. The moment Buffy kills Der Kindestod, she effectively deals with these two traumas. She avenges Celia’s death and by snapping his neck mirrors the manner in which Angel killed Jenny in the preceding episode, “Passion.” Her trauma caused by Angel, however, will take much more time and effort.

“I Only Have Eyes For You” sees Buffy physically and psychologically taken over by the spirit of forbidden love throughout the episode — more than just the final confrontation between she and Angel, who in a wonderful plot twist takes on the role of the female teacher in the pair of star-crossed lovers while Buffy takes on that of the spurned male student. Buffy is constantly afflicted by an outside force experiencing powerful, visceral, and vivid visions and Xander, Giles, Willow, and Cordelia also experience varying degrees of the school’s violent haunting. The poltergeists are not banished upon their first coordinated attempt. Like some illnesses, this haunting must consume its hosts and run its course before it will release its hold. This and the other two episodes discussed here are about the hurt that lingers as much as it is about new ills that befall us while we are beaten and broken. In order to defeat one evil, the hero must often live another. Even “under the spirit’s thrall” or yielding to a high-grade fever, there are still opportunities to process pain, recover and — as in this episode — to be forgiven.

These three episodes explore a wide spectrum of Buffy villains: the silly, the nightmarish, and the worst kind of villain of all: the one you love. In most viewer’s books, “Go Fish” would probably fall into this first category. The creatures, as Cordelia points out, bear a strong resemblance to the creature from the Blue Lagoon (which Xander corrects to “Black”) and the swim coach’s motivation for bringing about these transformations is no more involved than wanting to win the state championship. “Go Fish” is also the least related to the season’s primary throughline. Why does it matter? It matters because it is, as I suggested in the introduction: ordinary. In the wake of trauma life keeps happening. This is especially true of life on the Hellmouth. At Sunnydale High, members of the swim team turning into freakish fish monsters is life as usual. As with “Killed by Death” and “I Only Have Eyes For You” we see the trope of a character who submits himself to dangerous circumstances in order to conquer an unseen evil. By getting on the swim team and participating—though unwittingly—in the toxic “aromatherapy” of the steam room, Xander is affected internally. It is only after getting to that perilous and frightening place that progress can be made and the threat can be overcome. Sometimes that threat is one’s own pain.

In response to Giles’ erroneous theory that Jenny is the one haunting the school in “I Only Have Eyes For You”, Buffy remarks, “He misses her. He can’t think. Just a little more fallout from my love life.” If there were one word that could unify these episodes, it would be “fallout.” Buffy’s life and the lives of those around her have been shattered and they breathe in the resulting radioactive dust. Indeed, the nexus of their trauma is that of Angel and though the effects of his actions are not just Buffy’s burden, she bears the heaviest load.

It’s important to note that Angel as Angelus appears — albeit briefly — in each of these episodes. He illuminates the storytelling even as a background character. His appearance at the beginning of “Killed by Death” for example seems a bit superfluous and unnecessary and if this were any other episode, it would begin with any other vampire, but the choice to make it Buffy’s biggest vampire adversary at this point in the series reminds us that her wounds are still fresh and the healing process is far from over. In fact her wounds will deepen before the season is through. Angel’s reduced presence is also symbolic of Buffy’s resolve to regard him as a threat amongst many others across the landscape of the Hellmouth and another threat that needs to be defeated. In fact, these episodes are as much about recovery from trauma as much as they are about mentally preparing for the battle ahead. These three episodes allow Buffy a much-needed breath before the inevitable showdown.

After being attacked by Angel, Gage asks Buffy, “Was that the thing that killed Cameron?” “No,” she responds, “That was something else.” “Something else?” “Yeah unfortunately we have a lot of other something elses in this town.”

“Killed by Death”, “I Only Have Eyes For You”, and “Go Fish” are places where those “something elses” thrive — the somethings that simultaneously get in the way of life as we’d like it and force us to move forward with our lives as we reclaim our broken selves. There’s always something else and even if you’re the Slayer, you’ve never seen it all.


Thank you, Ian!

Next week: Becoming, Parts 1 & 2, brought to you by... me!! (They're possibly my favourite episodes of the series, so I laid my claim on them early.) We'll also have some music analysis from Janet/Steve, so I'm looking forward to that, too. :) Brace yourselves for season 2's backstory!


Marebabe said...

“Killed by Death” – Again with the Alpert mausoleum! If I’m ever at Comic-Con and get to ask Joss Whedon a question, I think it’ll be about the significance of the name Alpert being so prominently displayed in so many graveyard scenes. Watching this episode, I was reminded of the Buffy episode, “Nightmares” AND the movie, “Groundhog Day.”

Here’s a question for you British fans. When the gang visited Buffy in the hospital bearing gifts, Giles brought her a bag of grapes, but before he actually presented them, he was snacking from the bag. I’ve run across this behavior in my novel-reading. Rosamunde Pilcher is one of my favorite authors (she lives in Scotland, but her characters are always English), and more than once she has had a character say something like, “I’ll come visit you in the hospital. I’ll bring you grapes, and sit there and eat them all myself.” Is there an English tradition of bringing grapes when visiting someone in the hospital, and then helping to eat them? Just wondering.

Wouldn’t a hospital have signs directing people to the PEDIATRIC Ward, rather than the Children’s Ward? I noticed them referring to the Children’s Ward in some of the dialogue, too. And the refrigerator in Dr. Backer’s office looks like a 1950’s model. Seriously, it looks like June Cleaver’s fridge. Definitely NOT a frost-free model. I wonder why they did that. Seems an odd choice.

And finally, one more movie reference for this episode. Remember in “Aliens”, when Ripley and Newt were talking about monsters. Newt: “Why do grown-ups tell little kids that there’s no such thing as monsters?” Ripley: “Most of the time it’s true.”

Marebabe said...

Maybe some day, when I’m deeper into the Buffy saga and more used to the world of the show, an episode like “I Only Have Eyes For You” won’t seem so confusing! But this week, seeing it for the first time, I was often confused. So I read up on it in Nikki’s book, and that helped some. But I still have a problem with that ghostly gun that could fire rounds and then disappear.

In “Go Fish”, I recognized Wentworth Miller as Gage about ten seconds after he first appeared. The funny thing is that I’ve never watched “Prison Break”. I’ve just OFTEN seen his brooding gaze brooding at me from the pages of TV Guide and EW. He hasn’t changed one bit since 1998! Same buzz cut, same scowl, same everything. And speaking of never changing, Principal Snyder continues to be despicable. I’m still hoping for his icky demise. (Did anyone else think they were being a tad preachy about steroid use, misplaced values, and possibly the evils of gambling? I suspect Principal Snyder had a large wager on Sunnydale’s swim team to win!)

Sunnydale High has some odd (Hellmouth) features. How about that dungeon level, which resembles the sewers underneath Paris, France? It came in handy in this episode, obviously. And when it became clear that the Coach was about to get his, I imagined I heard Audrey II from “Little Shop of Horrors” singing, “The guy sure looks like fish food to me!”

Page48 said...

Sheriff: "sewer backed up?"
Snyder: "better, I can probably make that one fly".

ROTFLMAO, as if anyone could possibly find that explanation plausible. I love Snyder. He and the Sheriff are aware of the Hellmouth, but don't know about the Slayer. You'd think word would get around.

The 1955 Sunnydale Yearbook begins with an "In Memoriam" page dedicated to Grace. In light of the body count at Sunnydale, they could use a companion yearbook to memorialize the dead each year, which would, of course, include half of the faculty.

Buffy: "I think we'd better find the rest of the swim team and lock them up before they get in touch with their inner halibut." Of course, the swim team co-operates fully with Giles in allowing themselves to be locked up.

Buffy almost knocks back enough flu virus to kill her in an instant. "Oh, they really should put that on the label" The Slayer has elevated skills, but "thinking things through" isn't necessarily one of them.

Expecting Buffy to look like crap while hospitalized? Not a chance.

When I was a kid, I was scared to death to be left overnight in the hospital. Was I right or was I right?

Xander saves Buffy's bacon again. This time, she musters a "thanks". I'm developing a greater appreciation for Xander, the 2nd time around. The Scoobies are a well rounded team, each with strengths of their own.

Anonymous said...

The grape thing was in Doctor Who too. The Doctor regretted there was no little shop in the hospital in New New Earth where he could get grapes.

I find the use of stunt doubles distracting, especially, for example, where the camera is clearly on Mike's face and it isn't David.

Joyce and Giles have a very touching discussion. Was Joss considering making them a couple since Jenny was gone?

Why didn't the staff remove Buffy's rings and earrings? They're very obvious. Not to mention the cross.

When Buffy is wandering the hall in wrapped in her hospital gown she reminds me of Paul McGann in the Doctor Who movie.

Xander's braver than he realizes. He stands up to Angel.

Buffy had a childhood fantasy of being a superhero. Power Girl is the alternate reality version of Supergirl.

Does Giles stay so late in the library in IOHEFY because he hates to go home at night? Is he even able to sleep in his own bed?

Go Fish is the second episode in a row to start with a guy hitting on Buffy.

The best thing in Go Fish gets covered up with a floater board. :) Oh, Nicky.

The sea creatures must smell like BO, the way people sniff themselves.

Conchata Ferrel, the nurse, was well-known for LA Law.

This is the second time (since Prophecy Girl) that Xander saves Buffy - and both times are water related.

Anonymous said...

Is Snyder unaware of the Slayer, Page, or is that why he hassles her so much?

SenexMacDonald said...

@Marebabe said...“And finally, one more movie reference for this episode. Remember in “Aliens”, when Ripley and Newt were talking about monsters."

The other "Aliens" reference is when Buffy (in fact everyone) is in the water - especially when the fish guys rise up out of it. Reminds me of the alien rising up behind Newt.

Also there's the "Terminator 2" reference. When Buffy is in the hospital, like Sarah Connor, she is wearing grey sweatpants and a white t-shirt. Love when those things happen!

@Marebabe also said..."Sunnydale High has some odd (Hellmouth) features. How about that dungeon level, which resembles the sewers underneath Paris, France?"
The Hellmouth also has/had a big fleshy, egg-producing, one-eyed creature living on top/under it as well. The Hellmouth has many attributes to it. Wait until later seasons!

@redeem147 said..."I find the use of stunt doubles distracting, especially, for example, where the camera is clearly on Mike's face and it isn't David.

I am totally in agreement with that. I did not notice it before but it does take me out of the action sometimes during this rewatch. Annoying... :(

You can definitely see how the Scoobies are coming together in 'Killed by Death' when they all jump on Angel and beat on him. Cool - and fun at the same time.

In 'I Only Have Eyes for You', I have to wonder why no one wonders why there is such a ‘high’ turnover of teachers at Sunnydale High? It must be different at that Board or at least at that school. I agree with you, Nikki,that, unless everyone is in cahoots - and there appears to be some indication of this, NO ONE would ever let a student run a class. It would be totally against the law as only licensed teachers can teach ... except in special circumstances such as an emergency supply teacher. Even then it would still need to be an adult.

I hate the part in the cafeteria when the snakes appear on everyone’s plate (or in their mouths!) Total gross out!

My biggest problem with 'Go Fish' is that there is such a sexist attitude to the whole episode re. Buffy and how she dresses. I know that there are still a**h*les out there that claim that a girl/woman who dresses in short skirts is 'asking for it'. We recently had a police officer here in the Toronto area who had to be reprimanded because he made such a stupid statement. Considering this is Joss - and yes, I know that David Fury wrote this episode - and his passion for Equality Now, I am surprised that he let this episode go through with this included in the story. Was it needed? I don't think so.

Lesley C said...

"I Only Have Eyes For You" was practically perfect in every way. I loved the juxtaposition of the 1955 male/female (James/Grace) roles with a modern day female/male duo (Buffy/Angel). It was amazing how much the dialogue affected me when it was spoken by Buffy and Angel, even though I'd heard it verbatim twice before in that episode.

Nikki, you make an interesting point. I'm still holding out hope that Angel really has some good in him since (for me) it's been only two weeks since he became Angelus. I can imagine watching the show real-time, as it first aired, it would have been very hard to see Angelus week after week. (Though, the black leather pants do help...)

@Senex: THANK YOU for pointing out the sexist attitude in "Go Fish"! I was so ticked when everyone commented on Buffy's clothing. Yes, some of the outfits she wears aren't exactly modest. However, that does not mean it's okay for her to be treated like she had "it" coming to her.

Other thoughts:

There was a lot wrong in "Killed by Death". No hospital would keep its corridors as dimly lit. Why would the "Children's Ward" include a door for basement access? And I'm pretty sure drinking flu virus would not give you the flu; your stomach acid should destroy it before it entered your blood stream.

LOVED the scene where Spikes stands up from the wheelchair in "I Only". I also noticed his burn scars seem to be (finally?) healing.

The trio managed to chase Angel away from Buffy in the cemetery at the start of "Killed" by holding crosses. If that's so effective, why doesn't everyone in the Scooby gang carry a bag of them?

Where has Oz been? It couldn't have been a full moon during all three episodes.

Cordy's snake bite healed awfully fast between episodes 2.19 and 2.20.

Please tell me we'll learn more about what Principal Snyder and the Sheriff know (and how they know it).

Interrogation Willow = awesome sauce.

Thank you, Nik, for telling me what else the actor who played Gage has been in - it was driving me nuts as I watched "Go Fish".

The fish-boys can swim in salt (sea) water, fresh water (in the underground canals), and chlorinated pool water? That's handy...

Xander in a Speedo was fantastic - I agree with @redeem! And yes, Xander definitely IS a hero in his own way.

My anticipation is rapidly mounting for the Season 2 finale next week...

Unknown said...

Ian--thanks for giving these episodes a common theme, and Steve, thanks for all the musical tips. I am listening to the episodes in a totally new way.

I really like I Only Have Eyes For You, because of the theme of forgiveness. Nikki, you said something about 'will Buffy ever be able to forgive Angel for what Angelus has done' or something to that effect. But I love this episode because it is really about: will Buffy ever be able to forgive HERSELF for bringing about Angelus, and thus causing (albeit indirectly) Jenny's death? This line is the heart of the episode, to me:

Buffy: No. James destroyed the one person he loved the most in a moment of blind passion. And that's not something you forgive. No matter why he did what he did. And no matter if he knows now that it was wrong and selfish and stupid, it is just something he's gonna have to live with.

Buffy is talking about herself, and her moment of blind passion, as well as her guilt at "killing" the souled Angel, as well as Jenny. Which makes their dialogue at the end that much more poignant.

Efthymia said...

My top quote of the week:
"My whole life flashed before my eyes -I gotta get me a life!" :)

"Killed by Death": I never considered this a low episode, because Der Kinderstod scares the hell out of me! It's über'creepy! It's why I never watched horror films when I was a kid! Brrr...

"I Only Have Eyes For You":
- LENNON! I, too, was thinking that who would have thought that the guy playing the janitor would come to be an Academy Award nominee.
- Does any teacher willingly go to Sunnydale High anymore? I'm not surprised Willow continues teaching, I mean, think about the reactions of potential substitutes for ms. Calendar -"The SUBSTITUTE teacher got murdered!? Hell no I'm not going!"
- For a show that boasts its feminism, I was very disappointed to see them interpret the murder-suicide as a crime of passion; husbands/boyfriends usually murder their wives/girlfriends when they realise that they are losing control over them, and the murder is an act of ultimate violence and control; it's not a sign of true love. This really bugs me every time I watch the episode.

On the contrary, I don't think the comments on Buffy's clothing in "Go Fish" show sexism on behalf of the show: it is obvious to me that the show is critical of this type of sexism often directed at women, because they have a**holes express it.
And what is "Go Fish"? I remember that in "Catch me if you can" Jennifer Garner "plays" Go Fish with Leonardo DiCaprio, and she throws some cards at him, and I couldn't understand what that thing is.

Missy said...

Soooo Glad 'Becoming' P1&2 are next
(I've always said that 'Becoming'P1&2 would have been Great as a Movie-Nikki)
As for this Trio
'Killed By Death' is Dull.
But I do enjoy,Xander&Cordy,Cordy and "Stanford"(I'm a big S&tC Fan Lol),Willow and her Frog Fear and Celia...there are what 2scenes with Celia....but she made a huge impact on me.
'IOHEFY' is Exciting
But apart from Spike ditching the Wheelchair....and portions of the Angel/James & Buffy/Grace scenes,I really never understood the FanLove.
Now everyone always ask why I like 'Go Fish' I think Nicky sans clothes covers that...am I right Ladies(and gentleman)?
The Go part is what I LOVE...I tend to ignore the Fish part....because it's beyond ridiculous.
Bring on 'Becoming' P1&2
Old Friends and Heartbreaking Goodbyes.
Two of the best eposodes of the entire series. :)

Missy said...

Snyders involvement will get a big upgrade in S3.
Where we learn how much he knows and who the hell told him.
(and the Sheriff)

Suzanne said...

Even though I am not a huge fan of this string of episodes, I found myself enjoying them more this time around than the first time I watched them. On a first viewing these episodes are such a let down (especially without Ian's wonderful commentary linking them thematically and to a purpose). However, I appreciated Killed by Death and I Only Have Eyes for You a lot more this second time around. I am still not crazy about Go Fish (to me, it is only a little better than Bad Eggs).

This time around, I fell in love with I Only Have Eyes for You. For some reason, the scene with Buffy and Angel really impacted me this time. DB and SMG really played the scene beautifully, and it got to me on all of the levels that have been mentioned already. I also like that Angelus ended up "helping" to free James because of the fact that he was able to survive the bullet wound unlike the other "actors" who took the place of the teacher earlier in the episode. There is a very interesting parallel between Angel who is trapped inside Angelus and the young, innocent boy who is trapped inside the James who commits murder and then tortures himself and others because of the guilt he has carried for decades. Of course, the ending scene with Angelus, Drucilla, and Spike is awesome too. I can't get enough of this threesome.

Lastly, Nikki, the bit about Willow as a teacher has always bugged me to no end, too. It is bad enough that they have her teaching, but even worse, everyone treats it like it is normal (I guess anything is normal on the Hellmouth). It reminds me of J.J. Abrams show Felicity from the 90's where they had a junior in college teach a philosophy class as a T.A. I don't know about any of you who may have gone to graduate school, but I sure never saw any undergraduates serve as T.A.s. Even the graduate T.A.s (I was one) were lucky to get to teach a basic composition course since normally they were given the grunt work (mostly grading) that the professor didn't want to do himself or herself. :)

Anonymous said...

Willow teaching isn't the only staff problem at SH. It seems to be easy to work there with a fake identity (Praying Mantis girl, Jenny.)

I think it all connects to who is actually running the town. We've heard the name - now on to season 3.

JavaChick said...

Killed by Death - Normally I recognize an episode by it's title, but this was one of those where I couldn't remember what it was about until it started. I think "what happens when a slayer gets the flu" is a valid question to explore...In Buffy's case, of course, it leads to slayage.

Only have eyes for you - Love the scene with Buffy & Angel at the end. It's almost like they get a chance to say good-bye.

Go Fish - "Any demons with high cholesterol? You'll think about that later, Mister, and you'll laugh". :)

Also, love Willow interrogating Jonathan.

I know a lot of people complain about the monster-of-the-week filler episodes, but I think they have their place. They are still, for the most part, good episodes. They stick with the continuity. And lets face it, in real life there's lots of small stuff that happens in between the big stuff.

Of course, when you're watching a show for the first time and you end an episode with a real shocker it's true you are thinking: holy-cow-what-happens-next! And you want your questions answered right away. So the "small" episodes can seem a bit anti-climatic. But there is usually still something good there.

Marebabe said...

Hey, Nikki! I was just reading through this post again, and I remembered something I meant to comment on and then forgot. Regarding the in-joke about Xander’s gorgeous physique, it reminds me of The Simpsons, whenever we see Ned Flanders or (even better) Groundskeeper Willy take their shirts off. I’m pretty sure The Simpsons did it first, being a much older show, but Joss realized he could do it too, since he had an actor who liked to keep really fit.

Nikki Stafford said...

Marebabe: LOL!! I've never made that connection, but it just made me laugh out loud. Xander is the Ned Flanders of Buffydom!! ;)

Nikki Stafford said...

Marebabe: I'll make this comment again next week when there's another Lost reference in the graveyard (you'll see it immediately) but since David Fury wrote this episode, and he was a writer on S1 of Lost (he wrote the masterpiece, "Walkabout," from S1), there's a chance he could have made some suggestions.

That said, it's probably just a coincidence. I doubt the writers were paying much attention to the names on the props. But as Lost fans, we're always looking in the backgrounds now!

We need to construct reasons for why they're there. I did love that theory last week on how Alpert had set up a mausoleum for himself when he was off-island, LOL!!

Nikki Stafford said...

Oh, and the thing about bringing someone grapes is BRILLIANT. I've never heard that before!! Is it an English thing? Does anyone know anything more about this? Good catch, Marebabe!!

Anonymous said...

Ian, what a wonderful review. You make me see those episodes in a whole new perspective. Fantafabulous!

Blam said...

"Killed by Death" is one of my least favorite Buffy episodes to rewatch, even over more objectively bad clunkers. I guess part of that's because it's no fun to see kids in peril; I also tend to feel outsize frustration over stories in which nobody believes the protagonist and/or children (in this case, it's both) — like this or "Ted". And thanks to Nikki, I wonder now if another part of my discomfort is due to the setting being such a change that it just doesn't feel right.

We also have a few (?) sketchy questions down various avenues depending on the villain's nature. If Der Kindestod really is responsible for so many unexplainable (or explained-away) children's deaths, as suggested by the flashback to Buffy's cousin, and if Buffy has vanquished it for good, then rates of child mortality will significantly decrease – which of course is a positive thing but also world-altering. If she's only sent it away temporarily, or there are more than one such manifestation, then word should be spread (no hunters in this universe as in Supernatural, but still Watchers with potential Slayers and other folks fighting the good fight). If Der Kindestod was an isolated phenomenon, despite one being quite long-lived thanks to its presence in Giles' musty old books, then it's a hoary TV cliché for Buffy's cousin to have fallen victim to it by chance.

You can't really think about lots of aspects of Buffy too hard, I know, such as why the other Hellmouths out there aren't really addressed or why Sunnydale wasn't in even worse shape before Buffy arrived or why she doesn't patrol all the way until dawn, never mind how Willow's teaching. 8^)

At least the episode title gives me happy memories of Murder by Death, which the last time I saw it didn't quite hold up to my nostalgic memory but is still worth renting if you think you'd like a cross between the movie Clue and Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid that stars Peter Sellers, David Niven, Peter Falk, Truman Capote (yes, the actual Truman Capote), and (showing my age) Rhoda's Mom / the lady from the Bounty commercials.

Cordelia brings the funny with "Tact is just not saying true stuff. I'll pass." I also love Xander telling Buffy that if Death asks her to play chess not to do it. He probably got that one through cultural osmosis as opposed to The Seventh Seal, but it's still pretty sharp.

Blam said...

"I Only Have Eyes for You" is one of those great songs that sound best when heard through the atmospheric hiss and crack of vinyl as it is in "I Only Have Eyes for You" (although I've also heard it rendered beautifully live, a cappella). And just think about how relevant to Buffy, now and later, is the line "My love must be a kind of blind love..."

The episode has a neat way to get Buffy and Angel together (pseudo-)romantically even after he's been de-souled into Angelus, which as Nikki pointed out had been the status quo longer for original viewers and probably for the characters than it has been for us in the couple of weeks since we watched "Surprise"/"Innocence".

What I find particularly interesting, given the show's focus on demons and the negative consequences of magic or the fantastic in general, is the scene of the trapped souls finally being released and rising upward. Giles told us at the start of "The Harvest" that creation myths suggesting paradise were just that, myths; rather, the world was almost literally hell on Earth for millennia before humans came along. Despite the usage of crosses, there's been scant mention of religion in Buffy — outside of Willow's hilarious comment in "Passion" about "Ira Rosenberg's only daughter nailing crucifixes to her bedroom wall" — and almost none of heaven or spiritual forces of good, so it's nice to see that sparkly trail rise skyward. [I've tried to avoid spoilers on this topic, and in fact I'm not even suggesting that there are spoilers to be had, but I'd love to continue this point in the spoiler-comments forum if anyone else wants to.]

Blam said...

"Go Fish" is definitely a lesser episode, but at least it continues the series' admirable trend in Season Two of even the most middling monster-of-the-week episodes displaying emotional resonance from major plot points and the show's mythology. Season One just gave us glimpses of the Master waiting or ruing and g'nashing his teeth.

Cordelia is not only totally unexpectedly heartfelt in her proclamations of devotion to what she thinks is Xander turned into a fish dude, but totally hysterical in delivering the line "I understand if you want to see other fish."

VW: bedness — The Joss Whedon term for sleeping. "After a night like that, I'm just looking for some quick snackage and the bedness."

Blam said...

@Nikki: John Hawkes!!! I’d completely forgotten he was in this episode.

Me too. And until you mentioned it, I'd not made the connection that he was Lennon in Lost; I was just thinking, "Hey! It's the character actor who got an Oscar nomination and won an Independent Spirit Award for Winter's Bone!"

@Nikki: And yes… I understand the irony here that I have no problem with the swim team turning into sea creatures but I do have a problem with the practicality of Willow being a substitute teacher. ;)

That goes to the relative nature of suspension of disbelief, my dear. Given a premise, especially a fantastical one, we accept it as the ground rule for buying into the story at hand — unless we have no imagination (or it sucks). Whatever is not fantastical or otherwise called out as an exception to our expectations in the premise, however, is a story element that we rightly expect to behave in real-world fashion.

I accept that magic exists in the world of Harry Potter, and the deeper we delve into the wizard culture of that world the more leeway I give the author (consciously and unconsciously), but I still kind-of roll my eyes at the wizarding families being clueless about aspects of muggle culture that they'd clearly have to be aware of from interacting with the wider world, not always being able to use their powers, or (a particular pet peeve) possessing wizarding-culture riffs on everyday items.

You don't have to go into obsessive detail on the origins of Superman's powers, just postulate that they exist. I'll even grant you that he can hide his identity through a deceptively simple disguise of glasses, civilian clothes, voice pitch, mannerisms, and the fact that (in some versions at least) nobody expects Superman to even have a secret identity; it does help, of course, to have either reasonably abstracted art in the comics or an almost unbelievably impressive portrayal on film like Christopher Reeve's so that the reader/viewer isn't distracted by the disguise's potential for failure. When you ignore how a major metropolitan newspaper would actually work, though, you drive me up the wall.

@Nikki: Watch for the popcorn bucket to pop up again and again in weird moments.

Key phrases in that sentence remind me of a screening of La Boum in my high-school French class.

VW: Syssinex — "For those days when it just feels like every time you push a boulder up a hill it comes crashing back down, ask your doctor about Syssinex."

Blam said...

@Marebabe: Is there an English tradition of bringing grapes when visiting someone in the hospital, and then helping to eat them? Just wondering.

This is my one of favorite questions ever. I've never heard of this or noticed it myself, but it's tickling me to no end.

@Marebabe: I still have a problem with that ghostly gun that could fire rounds and then disappear.

Um... It's magic?

@redeem147: Buffy had a childhood fantasy of being a superhero. Power Girl is the alternate reality version of Supergirl.

I love that, although I don't think that the showrunners (or Buffy, in-story) were specifically clued into the fairly obscure DC character Power Girl; it probably just seemed like a good, generic name.

@redeem147: Oh, Nicky.

Ha! Is he so fine he blows your mind?

@Efthymia: And what is "Go Fish"?

This is a question that I can answer. It's a card game where each player is trying to come up with card pairs: I would look at the cards in my hand, and if I had, say, a 7, but only one 7, I would ask you if you had a 7; if you did, you would have to give it to me, and I could lay my pair of 7s down (the goal being to get rid of all the cards in my hand), but if you didn't you would say "Go fish!" and I would have to select an unknown card from the rest of the deck, adding it to my hand unless I "fished my wish".

VW: stion — A pigpen with a positive charge.

Marebabe said...

Dear Blam, I’m always so happy when you show up! Your sharp and analytical comments, your wry making-with-the-funny, and your first-rate VW definitions do so much more for me than merely breaking up a dull afternoon at work. It’s always a treat to read through your musings. (Got any threes?)

And on a (more) personal note, several weeks ago I tried to leave a condolence message on your blog, but your blog didn’t like me because I don’t have an account, or something. So I would just like to say that I loved reading the post about your Grandpop, and I’m very sorry for your loss. May the wonderful memories of your times together be a constant comfort to you, and to all your family. God bless you.

Blam said...

I'm touched by your compliments as well as your condolences, Marebabe, and thank you for both. I have no idea why you couldn't leave a comment on the blog, as I just checked and I did indeed select the least-restrictive possible settings in that area, but Blogger is nothing if not randomly, inexplicably infuriating. I'll just have to hope that you find another of my posts worthy of an attempt at reply sometime. 8^)

VW: dogroti — Indian puppy bread!

Blam said...

PS @Marebabe: Dear Blam, I’m always so happy when you show up!

So you're into delayed gratification then.

Marebabe said...

The difference I noted between your blog and Nikki’s was the Name/URL option under “Choose an Identity”. Here on Nik at Nite, I always select Name/URL and then type in Marebabe. On that particular day on your blog, there was no Name/URL thingy visible. So I gave up, sort of in a huff, but made a mental note that I’d eventually see you around in Nik at Niteland, and we could talk then. (Several years ago, I hit the same snag on Jorge Garcia’s blog, Dispatches from the Island. So I remain a lurker on his very entertaining blog.)

Regarding the delayed gratification thing, you reminded me of the days of the LOST rewatch. I would tell my husband about the “chatting” going on about LOST, but it wasn’t *really* chatting, as we all would wait hours, or days, or sometimes even weeks for responses. But I always thought of it as a conversation. Good times.

Unknown said...

Yes, it is traditional for us English to bring grapes to a patient. I'm not sure of where and why the tradition started myself I just know whenever I went with someone they would take grapes. The eating of them in DW and in Buffy just seems to emphasize the "Englishness" of the character somehow! either that or it keeps the giver something to do with their hands while sitting there! Sorry that probably wasn't very helpful just wanted to put my .02 in:)

Marebabe said...

@Helena: Thanks very much for your input! I now have a new thing to research, if you can call it that. (I wonder how many THOUSANDS of entries I would find if I just Googled "grapes".)

Marebabe said...

This is fun. I decided to dig around a little bit on the whole hospital/grapes issue. I did a Google search on English traditions. Clicked on British Culture, Traditions and Customs, which took me to a website called Projectbritain.com. I found a "contact us" email address on the site, and wrote a nice little email asking several questions: What is the origin of this custom? Why grapes in particular? Is it because of legendary health benefits in grapes? When did it start? Did a British monarch have something to do with it, possibly being a trend-setter? How common is it in modern British culture?

I feel like such a GEEK!! I also feel like I'm having a blast here. I really hope I get an answer to my email. I requested leads for research, in case the lady I wrote to doesn't know the answers to my questions. Whatever I learn, I'll share it here, for your enrichment!

Anonymous said...

Grapes and hospitals:

Don't know about the UK, but here in Norway grapes seem to be a fairly common (albeit old fashioned) hospital gift. I don't think the explanation is all that mysterious - I just think that grapes were considered a treat back in the days. Like raisins were a treat when I was a kid (1970s).

And Giles eating the treat meant for the patient is just a funny quirk - like **"Angel" spoiler alert!** Angel getting offended by comments about his hair.

Funny that everyone reacted to this - I didn't even think twice about it:-)