Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Buffy Rewatch Week 22

4.04 Fear, Itself
4.05 Beer Bad
4.06 Wild at Heart

**Follow along in Bite Me, pp. 219-222

For Angel viewers, this week’s episodes are
1.4 I Fall to Pieces
1.5 Rm w/ a Vu
1.6 Sense and Sensitivity (pp. 112-117 of Once Bitten)

This week’s trio of Buffy episodes is probably more of an emotional rollercoaster than I’ll see in any other week of the Buffy Rewatch. This might be the funniest scene in the entirety of BtVS for me:

Buffy: “This is Gachnar?”
Xander: “Big overture. Little show.”
Gachnar: “I am the dark lord of nightmares! (Buffy tries not to laugh) The bringer of terror! Tremble before me. Fear me!”
Willow laughing: “He – he’s so cute!”
Gachnar: “Tremble!”
Xander bends down: “Who’s a little fear demon? Come on! Who’s a little fear demon!”
Giles: “Don’t taunt the fear demon.”
Xander: “Why, can he hurt me?”
Giles: “No, it’s just – tacky.”

And this line…:

Buffy: “Want beer. Like beer. Beer gooood.”

triggers my gag reflex more than any other in the Buffyverse. I wish I could go back in time to the storyboarding of season 4, storm into the writers’ room and get down on my knees and BEG Joss Whedon not to do that episode. No, actually, I wish I could go even further back in time (and closer to home) and visit the writer of this episode who happens to be from... gulp... Toronto... and beg her not to go to Ryerson to take the writing course there, convincing her instead that she just might have a colourful future career as a florist. I mean, it’s such a great-smelling job! But alas, I can do neither of those things. Cue gag reflex.

And this:

“Oz... don’t you love me?”

immediately brings forth the tears for me. Willow tears are like tiny, wet daggers, each piercing my heart and wanting to gather her into my arms and make her happy again. And this episode just abounds with Willow tears.

So we’ve got the funniest, the worst, and one of the saddest episodes, all in the same week. Where to begin? Well, let’s begin with “Fear, Itself.” A fantastic episode all around, from Anya’s ridiculously awesome bunny suit to Giles wielding a chainsaw to the brilliant costume Oz wears (“Hello my name is God”) to that laugh-out-loud ending, “Fear, Itself” is one of the highlights of season 4. It’s the natural sequel to “Nightmares,” when the Scoobs all had to face their deepest fears. But notice how inconsequential their high school fears seemed compared to now, even though at the time they felt like the worst things in the world. Xander was scared of clowns; Willow had an intense stage fright; Buffy believed her parents broke up over her (something that’s mentioned at the beginning of this episode, a great dialogue cue that immediately brings “Nightmares” to mind for us); Giles got lost in the stacks; Cordy had crazy hair and was welcomed into the AV club. In this episode, Xander becomes invisible to everyone around him, like he’s no longer important in their world; Willow fears she will lose control over her talents in magicks; Buffy is scared that her friends will abandon her; Oz worries the wolf in him could threaten his friends. We’ve already seen Oz’s fear become a reality in “Wild at Heart,” and I’ll just say his isn’t the only one that will. But these are real fears that are life and death situations. The fears they all had in “Nightmares” ranged from funny to poignant, but here they’re all quite terrifying.

Until we realize that their fears are actually more dangerous to them than what lies ahead.

I’ll skip ahead to “Wild at Heart,” the episode where we finally meet the loathsome Veruca (aptly named after the vile character in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and Oz breaks Willow’s heart. I feel for Oz in this episode, but that doesn’t take away the hurt of watching Willow fall apart. Buffy steps up as a real friend in this episode, and Willow plays with knives when she goes to the school’s science lab and threatens to make her fear from “Fear, Itself” actually come true. I still remember watching that ending for the first time, when Oz went out to his van, turned it on, and then turned it off. My face was soaked, I was practically hyperventilating, and I was begging him aloud to get back out of that van and go back to her. The scene cuts to Willow, and the audience expects the door to fly open and him to come back to her... but he doesn’t. He turns the van back on, and we watch as it drives away. One of the most heartbreaking moments on Buffy for me. Well, that and the fact that Giles, who’s supposed to have good taste in music, somehow thinks Veruca has charismatic stage presence. That girl looks like she’s going to swallow the microphone every time she opens her mouth. For god’s sakes, someone teach that actress how to LIP SYNCH. It’s not that hard, really.

Anyway. I think that rant just signalled me to begin talking about that middle episode I’ve been avoiding, but before I get there (and I have a treat for y’all this week when it comes to that stinky episode), I’d like to re-introduce our wonderful Janet/Steve Halfyard, who is here this week to talk about the music in “Beer Bad” and “Wild at Heart.” And hey, she doesn’t hate “Beer Bad,” I’m happy to say, so let’s hear from her first before I unleash the hounds.

Boy bad, wolf bad (beer good): Buffy, Willow, love and loss
by Steve Halfyard

I come down firmly in the love camp for "Beer Bad". What's not to love? Beer is indeed foamy, and we in the UK really do not seem to share the US's concern about the evils of foaminess. I regret to say, of course, that what Buffy is drinking does not actually appear to be beer but that feeble cousin of beer's, known here as lager. If she'd been drinking real ale, none of this would have happened.

But: the big bad (as opposed to the "Beer Bad") early in season 4 is Parker, pretty, evil, amoral, adorable Parker, one of these people of such charm and yet such damaged psyche, who has the ability to make you feel like the most important and wonderful person in the world when they turn the spotlight of their attention on you, and who then turn away, leaving you desperate to get it back. It takes until this episode for Buffy to get him out of her system properly. Lorna Jowett, author of Sex and the Slayer, has observed that Buffy’s encounter with Parker is loaded with reminders of Angel, from his own remark about “dark and brooding” guys to the way sex with him “replays what happened when she had sex with Angel only without the allegory”: she has sex with him, and then he changes, loses interest, “turns evil”, and leaves her feeling that the only way to make sense of the encounter and to restore her sense of herself is to get him back, to prove that it wasn't a mistake.

And it is in relation to Parker that our old friend, the Buffy/ Angel Love theme appears in significant disguise, but revelatory of what is really going on in that Buffy brain. Buffy has her Parker fantasy in the teaser of "Beer Bad" In fact, if we listen to the music, we know right from the start that this is a fantasy, as the fight music is techno, not Beck’s normal orchestral underscore: this is fight music scored by Buffy's own imagination. And then, fantasy Parker makes his apology, and as he does so, listen to that music. In particular, listen to the first four notes of the theme – there they are, the first four notes of the Buffy/ Angel Love theme, in a slightly different rhythm, with different harmony, but the same melody nonetheless.

Fantasy Parker’s music is a sort of over-romanticised, easy listening, swooshy string version of the Love theme. What it seems to be saying is that Buffy thinks her problem is Parker; she thinks that what has upset her is how he has treated her. And yes, it has. But actually, her problem is still Angel, and the problem with Parker is that he’s not Angel. She doesn’t want Parker; she knows he’s shallow and unworthy. She wants him to be Angel. I believe the technical term for this is rebound.

And if any of us were in any doubt about her feelings for Parker, all we have to do is listen to how she constructs him musically in her fantasy: there’s a sort of metadiegetic thing going on here (sorry for the jargon), by which I mean that the music is arguably audible to Buffy as the soundtrack in her imaginary scene. She replaces Beck’s orchestral music for the fight with the type of thing she listens too (the type of thing of which Bay City Rollers-loving Giles would say “it's not music, it's just meaningless noise”), and she reworks her Angel love theme: her fantasy is trying to make Parker sound like Angel. It's a great sequence: and we get it not once but twice, the second time even more over the top, with Parker and his flowers and tub of ice cream - oh, Buffy! Comfort eating in your fantasies? Who could not love this episode, I ask you again?

The best bit is saved till last. Right at the end, whilst Buffy is still in cavegirl mode, Parker – who, of course, she now really has saved, although not quite as she fantasized it, she being more monosyllabic and with much less good hair than in the teaser – comes to offer her exactly the apology she had been hoping for, and we get the romantic fantasy version of the Love theme back again, a little more down to earth and sincere now (and on a piano, always an instrument for scoring sincerity in the Buffyverse), and a little more hesitant because now it is not the music of a fantasy Parker as imagined by Buffy but of the real Parker, who is genuinely grateful and ashamed. It is, of course, cut off in mid-flow as Buffy clubs him. And yes, we all know he deserved. Boy Bad, indeed.

If "Beer Bad" revisits something old, “Wild at Heart” delivers something new: not just a new theme but a theme which, just for a change, is really not about Buffy in any way. There have been little thematic things here and there not about Buffy – some Xander music, some Xander and Willow music (oh, their season 3 guitar theme was cute!) – but mostly it all comes back to Buffy, her battles and her relationships (same thing, a lot of the time). This season has been no different – there's been a whole “Buffy's disappointment” theme going through the first five episodes of this season that I decided not to bore you with (it's only a little motif, and it disappears from the score around now) – and there is more Buffy-related music to come, but this episode, musically, belongs to Willow.

You would be forgiven for not noticing this because “Wild at Heart” is the episode where Oz's musical interests drives a wedge between him and Willow; and we hear the remarkably mean Verucca singing at the start of the episode (and really, with a name like Verucca, were we ever supposed to like her?) so in fact, musically it starts out looking like this episode belongs to everyone but Willow. Her music starts up when she finds the pair of recently un-werewolfed musicians in Oz's cage; and as she runs from the crypt, we hear a flute melody, which later reappears as the music that scores Oz leaving her at the end of the episode. If the Buffy/ Angel love theme is mostly about Buffy's loss of the man she loves, this is Willow's direct equivalent, and it isn't an episode-specific theme – again, this one is coming back (as indeed, is Oz, spoiler spoiler). The scene when Oz leaves was originally going to have a song (a “Goodbye to you” moment) but Whedon and his music supervisor, John King, just couldn't find one that worked, that didn't intrude or do too much, so in the end they got Christophe Beck to write music for the breakup, which is how we come to have this lovely, delicate theme in several places in this episode and others. But the fact that Willow is starting to get her own themes (there will be more!) is symptomatic of the gradual shift in the balance of power, as Willow gradually becomes more powerful as a witch throughout this season and so deserves to have her own music as distinct from Buffy’s. Season 4 is the season in which Willow really starts to become strong enough in her own right to compete with Buffy for agency and that in turn affects the way the whole narrative and its underscore are constructed.

Thank you, Janet!

OK. So. First, I want to say that in ten television companion guides, written over twelve years, there has only been one episode where I’ve written the following:

“This episode was such an insult to both the characters and the viewers that I really don’t want to waste any more paper talking about it.”

I don’t think I’ve ever written off a single episode more succinctly and completely than “Beer Bad.” In my mind, it’s a travesty. It’s a joke. It’s not worthy of the Joss Whedon stamp. As I say in my book, YES, it has that brilliant Parker vs. Willow moment. And YES, it has that great moment where Buffy clunks Parker over the head with a piece of wood (okay, so I hate Parker... who doesn’t?) But, to put it bluntly, it’s STUPID. Ridiculously stupid. I watched it again this week for the first time in years, thinking maybe it’ll make me chuckle. Maybe I’ll think it’s funny. I clicked Start. Heh, that Xander line at the beginning is pretty funny. And Buffy’s hair is pretty awesome at the start, isn’t it? Um... okay, seriously, Buffy, you got over ANGEL quicker than you did Parker, really? Are you still really moping over this guy? Okay, whatever... oh hey look, it’s Kal Penn! And... wow, you’d never know he could act from this episode. He’s kind of terrible. Good thing he switched from acting to public office. Oh god, cavepersons are starting now... and okay, no. You know what? I HATE THIS EPISODE. I tried, I really did, I hoped it would work. But no. No no no no no. I HATE it.

It’s pretty well known among my readers that I hate this episode (I kinda made my feelings clear in my book.) And over the years, while “Beer Bad” has become a critical term, as in “That episode is the ‘Beer Bad’ of this series,” (for the Losties joining the rewatch, I once used that term to describe “Stranger in a Strange Land”) I’ve also met many people who defended it. Some went so far as to say they loved it. And so, I decided it wouldn’t be fair if I just used this space to rant even more. Instead, I’ll let other people talk.

So I rounded up twelve of the Buffy Rewatch peeps (some of them you’ve yet to meet, because they’re scheduled to be appearing later this year) and I won’t provide intros to each one of them, but you can go here to find their bios on the contributors’ page. Six of them defended it with honour, and six of them unleashed the powers of hell... or maybe they were just a little angry. So allow me to present both sides of the argument, and I’ll let you decide. (Oh, and in case you think it’s lopsided for me to take up this much space despising it, thus skewing things to the Hate side, I let the Love group go much longer, so they probably have a higher word count... so I’m just evening out the teams. And hey, Steve up there liked it, so we’re even again!)

So after my little hissy fit above, let’s start with someone in the Love column. First on deck, Stacey May Fowles, who will be appearing in season 6 of the rewatch.

Stacey May Fowles
When I told my partner I had agreed to defend Beer Bad, he stared at me perplexed and said “Why would you do that?” Yes, I, in the minority, have always had a soft spot for it (and no, it’s not just the minor Kal Penn appearance.) Maybe it’s personal, in the sense that I shared a pitcher or seven of bad beer with a tribe of fiercely loyal boys in my freshman days. Maybe I love the fact that Whedon never gets all lazy, after school special on us by making the lesson “drink lots of beer around boys, get assaulted.” Maybe it’s the fact that Parker gets told by Willow, who is still in her slightly awkward phase, making the sting of it all that much better. Whatever the reason, in my mind, Beer Bad is actually real good.

“The id doesn’t learn, it doesn’t grow up,” Professor Walsh says in the opening scene, highlighting the entire point of the episode. Buffy wants Parker, or more accurately, wants Parker to want her. Parker only wants sex, seemingly with every woman on campus, and is willing to creatively lie to get it. While it’s easy to misread the episode as a lesson on the perils of collegiate drinking, it is more accurately a critique of both the perils and purposefulness of unbridled, capital W Want.

A deluded Buffy spends much of the first part of Beer Bad fantasizing not only that Parker loves and idealizes her, but that he’s actually worthy of her affections—as Willow puts it, the Buffster is in need of “a big mental tidy.” Who among us have not gone down this road of the lovelorn only to discover, through the help of some good ol’ glass clinking (“It’s nice. Foamy. Comforting.”), that the object of our affection is actually a complete douchebag? Buffy’s busy beating herself up for being “a slut” and “an idiot” (still deluded) when a random group of boys (Hey Kumar!) invite her to drink -- the side effect of the boys and the beer? Buffy wants. And in wanting she seems to actually clear up that pesky Parker problem for good.

Sometimes you need the beer and the boys to get past the I’m a slut and an idiot phase and realize that guy was a total loser and you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it. Sure some people may get pushed around and some things may get vandalized, but the episode is Whedon’s way of saying to the broken-hearted “Beer? Hey, why not? It’s a process—just don’t accidentally set the campus coffee shop on fire.” In fact, in all the chaos and destruction of bad, bad beer, the ending has our heroine return to her former uncompromising self.

Also, I laugh every time Buffy falls off that desk chair.

LOL! OK, to counter, I present David Lavery, the man behind Slayage and the first person on deck to co-host with me in Week 2 of the rewatch. What did you think, David?

David Lavery
A now-retired, often cantankerous colleague of mine used to insist literature professors customarily teach the wrong stuff in their classes. Instead of having students read and write about masterpieces / classics — Tom Jones, say, or The Great Gatsby — we should be concentrating on bestsellers. He would teach appalling novels by Nora Roberts and Danielle Steele in a course, all the better, he was convinced, to make clear, by contrast, what makes great literature great.

If those of us studying and teaching the Buffyverse were to accept such an approach, we would not be focusing like a laser on “Innocence” and “Becoming” and “Hush” “Restless” and “The Body” and “Once More with Feeling.” Instead, bottom feeders like “Beer Bad” and “Where the Wild Things Are” would captivate our scholarly and pedagogical imaginations.

Revisiting “Beer Bad” for the Great Buffy Rewatch I am more dubious than ever about the value of the “begin at the bottom” approach. If all copies of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the world were destroyed except for “Bad,” future humans could ascertain nothing about the genius of Joss Whedon’s series. I had forgotten how inconsequential it is, not just a stand-alone episode but a go-and-stand-by-yourself-in-a-corner episode. Who are these characters? These are not the Xander, or Buffy, or Giles I know. Only Willow comes through relatively unscathed. It’s so off, so out-of-synch, that I like to think of it as non-canonical. A professor of mine once returned a paper to be without a grade and whispered “Let’s just pretend you didn’t write this.” I like to pretend “Bad” doesn’t really exist.

I began watching Buffy with “The Freshman,” and “Bad” arrived only four episodes later. I gave up on Vampires Diaries after only two, but “Bad” did not drive me away and obviously I am glad I stuck with BtVS. Not even the execrable “Where the Wild Things Are” (4.18) later in Season 4, also written by “Bad’s” Tracey Forbes, could drive me away.

Oooh! A smackdown! Well, the Vampire Diaries fans won’t like THAT one, I can tell you. Wait, what? We have the author of the Vampire Diaries companion guide to counter that one? Take it away, Ms. Calhoun!

Crissy Calhoun
“Beer Bad” is the kind of Buffy episode that a non-Buffy person could watch five minutes of and judge the series harshly (the way people currently rag on The Vampire Diaries until they actually start watching it). And while “Beer Bad” is no “Hush,” to malign it seems unfair to the episode’s simple comedic charm or its rightful place in the evolution of episodes — like “The Pack,” “Band Candy,” “Tabula Rasa” — where characters temporarily lose their identity. Buffy’s slayer strength helps her get everyone away from the fire (“bad”) in the end, but “Beer Bad” is otherwise about Buffy as a human — a college girl who feels stupid and slutty after sleeping with a guy who doesn’t want anything else to do with her.

Add to that the fun of seeing: Xander’s Good Will Hunting-style revenge on the poncey college guys; Willow faking us out by seeing Carter’s side of things; Buffy’s cavegirl hair; Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement Kal Penn as a caveman; Giles describing Buffy’s strange gait to random hallway dudes; Riley, all cute and full of love-interest potential; and Buffy bonking Carter on the head — twice.

And I know I’m not the only Buffy fan who’s woken up after a particularly late beer-filled night, feeling non-verbal and like stealing my roommate’s Cheerios, and in those times I can grunt, “Beer bad,” and feel close to the Slayer. Which is just about the best feeling possible in the midst of a hangover — or at any time really. “Beer Bad” good.

I feel like the sports commentator caught in the middle here... now, back over to the Hate team. And maybe the argument is just so obvious, all it takes is something short and sweet. Here is Ian, who appeared earlier in the Rewatch, using one of my favourite forms of poetry to describe his thoughts on the ep.

Ian Klein
Choosing refreshments
For the Buffy writer’s room:
Soda good, beer bad.

Seriously, we need to institute some haiku in our Buffy watch. I miss it. OK, back over to the Love team, who’s just getting warmed up. Let’s go grab Evan Munday, the guy who argued in favour of “Ted.” Of COURSE he loved “Beer Bad.” I’d expect nothing less.

Evan Munday
'Beer Bad' gets a bad rap, sandwiched between two pretty solid episodes, the Hallowe’en one featuring a chainsaw-wielding Giles and the one that breaks Willow’s heart (and had me crying in my bedroom as if my dog had just died). Additionally, the episode has that whole after-school special aftertaste of the evils of drinking, but it does have some incredible advantages:

1) This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Hairstyling in a Series! No one can style caveperson hair like Lisa Marie Rosenberg!

2) This episode features a guest appearance by Kal Penn. 'Nuff said.

3) We get a Cliff's Notes lesson on Freudian psychology (now largely discredited) in the first five minutes!

4) Buffy watches Luscious Jackson on the TV. Remember them? ‘With my naked eye / I saw all the falling rain / Coming down on me.’

5) Most importantly, this episode clearly inspired those delightful Geico caveman ads (which themselves led to another, less-successful) television series, Cavemen.

Ball’s in your court, 'Hated It.'

Oh, Evan. You almost convinced me. But not quite. OK, hated it, who’s next? Kristen Romanelli!

Kristen Romanelli
"Beer Bad" actually begins with some promise. We enter with a totally badass fight. Buffy’s kicking and punching and flipping and kicking, and she gets in some wicked quality dusting. It all goes downhill from here. This turns out to be a very sad little power/redemption fantasy about Parker. I mean really. Parker? You don’t get this hung up on a rebound. Trust me. I find it really hard to believe that a woman as badass as Buffy can get this mopey over a guy like Parker. An epic, tragic love like Angel, yes. But… really?

Ugh, anyway. This episode is like the perfect storm of awful writing, directing, and editing. The lines are stilted and the pacing is slow. Just because the characters regress to plodding idiot cavemen doesn’t mean that everyone involved in the production had to do so as well. “Nothing can defeat the penis! Too loud, very unseemly.” For reals, Tracey Forbes?

Also? This episode marks the first appearance of Veruca who came out for all of 30 seconds to slobber all over a microphone wear offensively bad pants. Hate. And it reminds me that Kal Penn isn’t on House anymore. Double hate.

Is it just me, or is everyone mentioning Kal Penn? Now, when I sent out the list of teams to everyone on here, Evan Munday immediately emailed me back to say, “We are SO going to win, because we’ve got RAMBO on our team!” Ladies and gentleman, please welcome Elizabeth Rambo, who you’ll see more of in seasons 6 and 7 of our rewatch:

Elizabeth Rambo
Yes, the subtext is blatantly textual in "Beer Bad," and I won’t even try to defend the cavemen, but lack of subtlety is one reason I find myself enjoying it. The other reasons are some character revealing moments that tie this episode to later developments:

When Buffy bumps into Riley, he’s so engaging: “I’m ungainly...[Parker] should have his attention span checked.” But she can’t see him...yet.

Willow is adamant about Buffy getting over Parker, while she puzzles over Oz’s mystifying attraction to Veruca. Willow can tell Buffy that drowning her troubles is no answer, but check her later in "Something Blue.” Willow's confrontation/conversation with Parker, in which he seems to be making an impression, giving her the “you’re the only one I can really talk to” line, until you realize that her sweet Willow smile is a cynical smirk and she gives him a well-deserved set-down.

The unsubtlety I love most: ultimately, it’s all worth it to see Buffy knock that rat Parker out, not just once, but twice. Unlike my namesake, I believe in forgiveness, not vengeance, but don’t believe for a minute that Parker was truly repentant; a good bash or two is the only way some people can learn. Um—metaphorically, of course!

One of my favourite people from Slayage is Cynthea Masson, and I was thrilled to discover she’d be in our Hate camp. A fellow Canadian, we can also get behind hating the fact the writer of this episode is one of us. Sigh.

Cynthea Masson
“Beer Bad” wouldn’t be so bad if not for the beer—the “bad, bad beer,” as Xander dubs it. Admittedly, the episode (as with all “bad” Buffy) offers us a few notable highlights, including Veruca’s song and Xander’s sensible caveat: “Giles, don’t make caveslayer unhappy.” But such highlights are sparse and dispersed amidst the overarching foamy badness of metaphor-laden beer chugging. To appreciate the badness, we need only answer Xander’s final questions to the caveslayer: “Was there a lesson in all this? … What did we learn about beer?” I refer not only to the drinking will turn you into a Neanderthal metaphor (with which we are clubbed over the head along with Parker) but also to the less obvious and highly problematic drinking can bring a woman to her senses. That is, Buffy cannot forego her irrational longing for Parker until she drinks herself into complete inhibition (or a state of pure “id,” as Professor Walsh might say). Bad, bad lesson: college guys who drink become metaphorical cavemen (of the sort who wouldn’t stand a chance against astronauts), but a college woman who drinks can find the strength to recover from heartbreak.

That astronaut joke will make sense to the Angel fans. ;) I mentioned in the contributors’ post that I was pleased to feature both Dale Koontz and Ensley Guffey, a husband-and-wife comedy team (okay, they’re academics, but really funny ones!) who I know from Slayage, and they stepped up and agreed to take opposite sides (ah!) and do theirs together. So here are the Guffeys, with their little play, “Bakhtin or Bactine? Either way, this is gonna sting…”

DALE: The Tracey Forbes-scripted episode “Beer Bad” is often dismissed by casual fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is to be expected in the virulently anti-intellectual cesspool that is so often Internet fandom. In fact, “Beer Bad” is a sparkling gem of an episode, one whose facets shine when the twin lights of logic and academic inquiry are properly focused upon it. The episode is a subversive primer in both Freudian theory, and, far more important to the post-modern critic, the explorations of grotesque realism put forth by Bakhtin.

ENSLEY: I’m glad you brought out the Bactine, since after watching this episode, I need an antiseptic that won’t sting.

DALE: Ignore the trained monkey, ladies and gentlemen. He gets snippy without a constant stream of bananas. Back to the episode – even you, incurious cretin, can’t ignore the utter propriety of setting the climactic battle scene underground, in the “Grotto.” Think about it - cave-men, cave-Buffy, cave-fire. Clearly, this is a direct reference to Plato’s famous allegory of the Cave.

ENSLEY: I think more likely it’s an allegory of the dangers posed by lax fire inspectors. Seriously – there’s a pillar of smoke rising from the middle of a college campus. Where the hell’s the fire department? And those are definitely sprinkler system pipes Cave-Buffy’s swinging on, but where’s the water?

DALE: You must have wet brain. The water pipes are a metaphor.

ENSLEY: Yeah. A metaphor for the necessity of fire codes!

DALE: As is typical, you’re unable to discern the forest for the trees, as your people would say.

ENSLEY: You mean SANE people? Just admit it – it’s a bad episode! It happens. (For example, see
Dollhouse. Any episode. All the episodes. (Alan Tudyk excepted. I love you Alan!)

DALE: So you fail to see the redeeming qualities in showing Buffy striking out at the patriarchal society that has, for countless millennia, degraded and belittled the accomplishments of women?

ENSLEY: Well, you’re right about one thing. The episode does strike out; in fact, it’s a no-hitter, repeatedly bludgeoning the innocent, unsuspecting viewer with its hackneyed symbolism.

DALE: Oooohhh, look at the upright simian, using big words!

ENSLEY: You mean like “pusillanimous and obfuscating female”?

DALE: Ohhh, baby, tell me more. You know how I get.


Oh, I love those two. Well, it all comes down to this. One last love, and one last hate. First, Jennifer K. Stuller, who you may remember from such Rewatch posts as season 1 finale and season 3 finale (the woman likes her satisfying endings!) Your team is counting on you, Jen, take it away!

Jennifer K. Stuller

That, in itself, should be enough. How can people not like the brilliant “Beer Bad”?!? (Kal Penn? Cave Slayer? Willow being the most awesomest girlfriend we all want in our lives?) Sure, the metaphor is stretched thin, but it often is on BtVS. As the hubby recently joked, “So, when Buffy is fighting Faith . . . She’s really fighting herself!”

Yes, Dear.

We can go to our classes on Big Thinking and talk about “shadow doubles” (or we can debate the geo-political ramifications of bio-engineering) but I want beer. Beer good.

Maybe, it’s all those nights I spent getting drunk with my girlfriends in Santa Cruz – and driving back to Marin in time for class suffering the afterness of a bad night of badness. Or maybe it’s that I love the Slayer because even as the Chosen One, she makes the mistakes most of us do. To all you haters – I know I’m not the only girl who acted dumb around an id-boy she later wished she could knock unconscious with a big stick.

How cathartic that our girl gets to do it.

I’ll leave the final word to Matthew Pateman, who you may remember from the third week of the rewatch, and who we’ll see again in the “Restless” week. Unfortunately, it’s not really clear what side he’s on, so I decided to leave things with a decidedly neutral party. Just to be fair.

Matthew Pateman
Beer isn’t bad; beer’s bloody brilliant. And more beer is even better. After a dozen pints, the world’s a better place (or you’re so smashed and unconscious that it not being a better place is not a worry).

is also brilliant – a morally nuanced, socially engaged, generally liberal show that offers an examination of being in the world in different ways and at different times of your life.

This episode was, at best, a blunt metaphor of absolutely no aesthetic worth, no narrative interest and peculiarly dull acting and direction; or it was a cow-towing act of nauseatingly obsequious obeisance to a corporate dictat from a bunch of hypocrite cynics and two-bob bullies.

The episode is dull, didactic and stupid. Worse, it parades its ignorant message of abstinence in a context that has always been open to multiple possibilities and to oppositionality. To love this episode is to pander to the worst aspects of a non-reflective, self-satisfied, moral myopia; it is to side with the philistines and life deniers.

No one episode has ever done more to try and defile the artistic integrity, aesthetic bravery and politico-moral sophistication of its parent show. It is an irredeemable excrescence.

I am not fond.

You know, I really wish he'd choose a side.

Next week:
4.7 The Initiative
4.8 Pangs
4.9 Something Blue
**See pp. 222-226 in Bite Me

For those watching Angel, prepare for the first truly great week of episodes... episode 8 is a don’t miss for Buffy fans:
1.7 The Bachelor Party
1.8 I Will Remember You
1.9 Hero


Marebabe said...

I’m pretty sure that the lively discussion of “Beer Bad” will eclipse the other two episodes we had this week, but I have a few little observations about “Fear Itself”. I really like when they bring the Cute, and “Fear Itself” had some absolutely adorable moments. I LOVE Festive Giles! The wacky sombrero with the fringe was just the right degree of “too much”. Willow and Oz as Joan of Arc and God. (Awww.) And how very imaginative to have the “actual size” demon at the end. It was a cute ending to a cute, fluffy episode. As fluffy as Anya’s bunny costume!

OK. *cracks her knuckles* There have been too many hints about “Beer Bad” for a n00b like myself to be able to sit down for a first viewing completely unspoiled. I had no idea about what was actually going to happen in the episode, but I had been warned repeatedly that it was the most polarizing of all the Buffy episodes. I was glad for the choice of the word “polarizing”, rather than “despicable”. That meant (to me) that at least some people liked it. And I went into my first viewing hoping that I would find something enjoyable about it. That mental state/good mood was aided by three things. 1.) Watching “Beer Bad” was one of the first things I did on Friday evening, right at the start of my 3-day Memorial Day weekend. The beginnings of holidays/vacations are almost always the best parts for me. 2.) I was enjoying a fabulous medium-rare grilled rib-eye steaky-wake while I watched the beginning of the episode. 3.) I was also enjoying some delicious, fizzy, ice-cold Asti. ;)

By the time Xander was chatting with the guys about tipping, I was giggling and having a great time! And the sight of Cave Painter Buffy had me hooting with laughter! (Did she remind anyone else of Jungle Hair Claire?) I loved when Buffy was spinning in the office chair. (Nice chair, by the way.) All in all, I found it interesting and hilarious to watch a foursome of college guys devolve into knuckle-draggers. And I think I know why this episode made so many Buffy fans’ teeth itch. Everyone who ever climbed aboard the Buffy train had to check their disbelief at the door, and there’s a limit to everyone’s willingness to suspend disbelief further. I freely admit that “Beer Bad” was ridiculous and goofy, from FAR out in left field, even for the fantasy world of Buffy. It kind of reminded me of “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”. Pretty stupid and preposterous, but also fun! And really, I could see very little difference between the cave trolls in “Beer Bad” and SOME (not all) young adult males.

It’s too bad nobody saw Xander run into the burning building to look for his friends. That was a very brave thing to do!

Is it ironic that my enjoyment of an episode about the evils of (poison-laced) beer was enhanced by my consumption of three glasses of Asti? Yep. I think that counts as irony. And in conclusion, beer bad, Asti good!

Marebabe said...

I couldn’t place Lindsay Crouse (Professor Walsh) for awhile. She looked so familiar, but I couldn’t figure out where I’d seen her before. Finally, after watching “Wild at Heart”, I checked IMDb and read through her impressive filmography. Turns out I knew her best from two great films, “Places in the Heart” and “The Verdict”.

Giles, watching that TV quiz show: “That dinette set should be mine.” Tee-hee.

Nikki, I agree that Veruca’s lip-sync performance is completely unbelievable, but it’s more than just her over-doing it. The vocals sound so studio-engineered, so mixed and polished, there’s no way a live performance could ever sound like that. It really kills the illusion. Glee has that problem in spades. Sure, the vocals sound perfect. Too perfect, in my opinion.

They’re leading up to something. I can feel it. Those masked commandos? What is their primary objective? Because of their fleeting, stealthy presence lately, I felt a little nervous when Oz hopped into his blue van at the end of “Wild at Heart”. Was he about to be abducted with the old grab-from-behind? False alarm, for now. But here’s the really interesting thing. I had finished watching the episode, put the disc away, and moved on to other things, when I remembered that we had seen Spike briefly in the opening blurb, and then no more Spike for the rest of the episode. That seemed odd, and made me think (again) that they’re leading up to something. So later I popped the disc back in for another look at that opening scene. And I had COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN that Spike was tasered and dragged away by a squad of masked commandos!! I now think that they’re leading up to something AS BIG as the Mayor’s ascension at the end of season 3. *tingles*

Nikki Stafford said...

Aw, you know, I'm glad you liked "Beer Bad," Marebabe. Even as I'm dissing it, I feel like I don't have enough of a sense of humour about it. But for me, it's not just bad because of the caveman aspect, but because of the didacticism. It's like it's pounding you over the head with a message that beer can turn you into a Neanderthal (as I said in my book... DUH). Now, I'm actually a teetotaler, and not out of any sort of ethical thing. I have no problem with people drinking, and as someone who's seen almost all of my friends drunk (and hey, some of them are even more fun that way!) I simply don't like beer. Or alcohol, for that matter.

Alcohol can be destructive, but this episode seemed to be sending a much more serious message that didn't befit the ridiculous way of transmitting that message way to us.

But all that said, I'm happy you liked it.

And Festive Giles is one of my favourite things! When he pulls the string on Frankenstein and yelles, "It's ALIIIIVE!!" I'm always laughing out loud. High-larious!

Colleen/redeem147 said...

I don't love Beer Bad, but I don't hate it either. Sarah gets to do physical comedy and it's funny. Tracey Forbes also wrote my favourite episode, Something Blue, so I give her props for that. And remember - whatever she did, Joss had to clear it.

The worst episode, BTW, is As You Were.

Now that that's out of the way...

Sometimes things show up that date the show. VCRs sure do, now that Blockbuster is going under because DVDs are dying.

Poor Buffy - in the space of a year, she's been dumped by Scott, Angel and Parker. I'd drink too, if beer didn't taste so stinky. (Wine good.)

Buffy's pretty judgmental about poor Giles - can't have a sex buddy, can't enjoy Hallowe'en...

Look at Willow's breastplate - my son wore the identical one for Halloween - when he was five.

Is the skeleton using a cell phone a first for Buffy?

Buffy mentions Abbott and Costello. Guess she watches more than musicals with Mom.

If the haunted house thing were real, would Willow be a werewolf after Oz scratched her?

I love the delight on Giles face when he picks up the chainsaw, and the way he's framed in the door - ASH as Ash.

I know Parker is icky, but Adam Kaufman is hot. He was also in Taken (the series) and Without a Trace.

Buffy's French is getting better.

Why do the guys go Neanderthal but Buffy just gets messy hair? BTW, might I also add - Kal Penn!

I find Buffy taunting the vamp in WAH to be disturbing - Captain Picard would be very upset at the way she treats sentient beings.

We criticize Parker, but isn't Oz worse? He's not manipulating Willow for a one night stand - he's lying and cheating on his girlfriend. And that's Oz - no blaming wolfie.

Okay, that big strong cage breaks, but the library one doesn't?

Poor Willow has the hair roots of despair.

Why didn't Maggie say "I was attacked by tiny Yetis?" It would be a more accurate description.

And Oz drives out into the night to find his father - Dr. Evil.

Colleen/redeem147 said...

It's not regular beer. It's cursed beer. Regular beer doesn't turn you into a Neanderthal, it just makes you throw up. ;)

alexis said...

My dog watches television. He will often pay attention to what is onscreen and will bark at random dogs and such.

He didn't like the caveman on Beer Bad and barked at them. I take it to mean that he doesn't like that particular episode.

Dusk said...

I don't blame Oz for that first incident, wolf did it not regular him.

Second time, ehh...he clearly regrets what he did and he kiled to protect Willow and you could argue he stopped the she-beast from rampaging, possibly killing someone. But on the othe hand, his animalisc attraction to her wasn't okay, but then again I can't blame him for wanting to get to know someone like him.

And yeah, the library cage stayed intact but the big one breaks?

Chris said...

If you consider "Beer Bad" a deliberate, over-the-top parody it is actually quite funny.

You have to remember that this was 1999 during the height of the 'dot-com' boom. The TV networks (including the WB) had come to an agreement with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy which would allow the networks to sell advertising time rather than donate time to the government for public service announcements (such as "this is your brain on drugs..."). In return, the networks agreed to place anti-drug and alcohol messages into their programming. "Beer Bad" is simply what happens when network executives order visionary writers what to put in their stories (Joss and Marti Noxon did oversee all the writers quite closely even if Tracey Forbes did the actual authoring of this ep.).

I simply see this episode as Joss (subtly) thumbing his nose at the WB executives - if this is what you want us to do, this is what you'll get.

Chris said...

Oh forgot,


We first see a cell phone towards the end of "Welcome to the Hellmouth", the very first episode.

Cordelia takes it out of her purse after Buffy almost attacks her at the Bronze.

Page48 said...

@Marebabe, I loved "Places in the Heart" (in which she co-starred with Terry O'Quinn).

Crouse also managed to beat O'Quinn to the set of "Alias" by one episode, appearing in 1.16 (aka the Roger Moore episode).

"Beer Bad" was a lowlight for me during my first watching of BtVS. There's just not much of what makes BtVS special in this one (and it's stooopid). It reminds me of one of those silly episodes of "Bonanza", when Hoss would wear a dress or something.

I think the highlight for me was Buffy saying "Fire BAD". Even in her cavegirl state, Buffy knows it's time to spring into action when stuff gets ruff. And, she looks kinda hot in her jungle hair.

Personally, some of my favourite viewing experiences have involved beer. Beer can take a sad scene and make it gut wrenching. Beer can be a value adding beverage. And, it's foamy. And, yes, Colleen/redeem147, it certainly can make you throw up. Barf BAD.

"Fear Itself" was a great episode. Look at the size of that chainsaw Giles had stashed in his bag.

"Wild at Heart" was one of those episodes devoted to the pain. Veruca BAD. The end was as heartbreaking as it gets. Now try that ending when you're full of foamy beer. It'll give you 2.5 times the emotional impact.

Giles in transition is hard to watch. Word to Giles...get a job.

Cynthea said...

Thank you Nikki! What fun! The "Beer Bad" debate made my evening--I laughed all the way through. But Matthew Pateman definitely gets the award for rhetorical flair. And I hope that Dale and Ensley will perform another such duel at Slayage!

Christina B said...

Like you, Nikki, I hated "Beer Bad". But man, did it have competition this week with "I Fall to Pieces"!
What an awful, awful episode of Angel!
It made "Beer Bad" almost look good!

I'm struggling as it is to get through season one...thank goodness "Rm w/ a Vu" was better or I might have given up on Angel entirely.

About Angel--Is it just me or does his Irish accent tend to come out more when he's around Doyle?
Is it just me or is he supposed to have that tiny lilt to his voice sometimes?

And now, "Wild at Heart". It killed me the second time around almost as much as the first.
I'm so in love with Oz and to watch him betray poor Willow just kills me.
And the end? Ugh. Gushing tears. :(

Maybe I'm too sensitive but damn, Buffy often makes me cry!

The Question Mark said...

I've grown very fond of Anya this season, and I'm glad that she's slowly but surely becoming a member of the gang.

I've gotten choked up during previous Buffy episodes, but "Wild at Heart" was the first one that truly brought a tear to my eye. Alyson Hannigan just breaks my heart when she starts sobbing in Buffy's arms.

I think I'm on the pro-"Beer Bad" side. It was certainly no masterpiece episode, and I can definitely agree on comparing it to LOST's "Stranger in a Strange Land". But it was enjoyable nonetheless. Buffy's cavegirl hair was actually kinda sexy! :P

And Sombrero Giles NEEDS to be an action figure. It NEEEDS to be.

The Question Mark said...

Also, I have now officially caught up with my 13-year-old self. "Fear Itself" and "Beer Bad" were the last of the three Buffy episodes that I caught snippets of back when they originally aired. I still remember flipping the channel and seeing a very drunk Buffy call the Frat Douche "smelly-head".

During "Beer Bad", Buffy (in all her Jungle Claire Hair glory) was reminding me of somebody, but I couldn't put my finger on it until now:
She looks just like Shakira!!!

Tom D. said...

Sombrero Giles NEEDS to be an action figure. It NEEEDS to be.

Question Mark, you should Google "fiesta giles"!

Nikki, I loved the guest analysis this week! Very entertaining and illuminating discussion of an episode that it would have been easy to pass over.

I'm surprised to learn that Beer Bad is so polarizing. When you mentioned "one of the most polarizing episodes" in last week's post, I figured you meant Wild At Heart!

Tom D. said...

Willow: "All Geminis to the raspberry hats!"

OH MY GOD so cute. It renders me almost nonverbal. Oz leaving = unfathomable.

Efthymia said...

"Fear Itself":
I've noticed that while Buffy's, Xander's and Willow's fears are mostly about themselves -being abandoned and ending up alone, feeling unimportant, being unsuccessful (in magic, in this case)-, Oz's fear is what may happen to others when he changes. I don't know whether I should interpret that as Oz being very secure about himself, as him being an altruist, or as the werewolf condition being so important that it covers up anything else. It's probably the third option, but I like to think of Oz as super-awesome. I found his "You're not gonna change!" in the bath tub heart-breaking.

"Beer Bad":
The best thing about this episode is that it's only uphill from here! (OK, not way up for some of this season's episodes, but still uphill.)

"Wild at Heart":
Bowie shirt! Oz truly IS an ideal man for me...
I can't really comment on this episode, I'm mourning. :(

RickR said...

Nikki, I loved your panel of experts giving pro and con arguments for "Beer Bad"! Any way I can talk you into doing a similar post for "Stranger in a Strange Land"? Pro and con (or maybe "con" and "less con" might be more appropriate for that ep).
It's a Jack-centric, so I'm in the "less con" camp myself. *Noble*

stacy said...

Tom D-
Fiesta Giles action figure is the best ever-

thanks for the google advice.

Anne said...

Christina B said...

I'm struggling as it is to get through season one...thank goodness "Rm w/ a Vu" was better or I might have given up on Angel entirely.

Trust me it gets much much much better, however, unfortunately you have to wait for season 2 for it to really pick up its stride as the firs season it does not seem to know what kind of show it was going to be. I say stick with it, and you might be pleasently surprised

Witness Aria said...

Christina B said...

I'm struggling as it is to get through season one...thank goodness "Rm w/ a Vu" was better or I might have given up on Angel entirely.

Anne said...

Trust me it gets much much much better, however, unfortunately you have to wait for season 2 for it to really pick up its stride as the firs season it does not seem to know what kind of show it was going to be. I say stick with it, and you might be pleasently surprised

Yes, the first part of Angel is tough to get through the first time. But there's good episodes ahead even in season 1 where it starts finding itself. There will be some really good eps coming up in each of the next few installments so don't give up.

Nikki Stafford said...

Christina B: If it's any help, I give the same advice about Angel as I do Buffy: I always say to people that if you can make it to mid-season 2 of Buffy (the Surprise/Innocence chapters) you'll realize how worth it it was to get there. Getting there we saw plenty of fantastic episodes, but it was a bit of a battle to make it there at times. Angel is the same. Get to the end of season 1 (same number of episodes!) and you'll see what I mean.

And I can tell you that even next week, you will be hugely rewarded. I hope you love those eps as much as I do. ;)

Nikki Stafford said...

Question Mark: Ah, someone else beat me to the Fiesta Giles comment! ;) He totally is an action figure. As he should be. We have another episode upcoming where Giles will suddenly open a door and be standing there with a goofy looking outfit on, and it rivals this episode for how hard I laughed in a Giles scene. Oh how I love him.

Tom: "All Geminis to the raspberry hats!" is absolutely Willow at her very cutest. It's like they make her so unbelievably lovable in this moment just to crush us even further later. Sigh.

JS said...

Sadly, my blackberry ate my comments. There’s a book in there!
Beer Bad is a silly, over the top obvious "metaphor", and, taken with a grain of salt, funny, with a few stand out lines. There are no redeeming qualities to the "Stranger" off island story, and very few in the on island one. Asha BAD!!

In Wild at Heart, I was hoping to see a little more of Willow's magical powers. She is the queen of pain – got choked up this time around too.

FYI – I accelerated my personal watching schedule and have watched through the end of the series, so I am officially RE watching! (@Marebabe, they are leading up to something.) I am also watching Angel, and so have a better appreciation for Spike’s little speech on the roof. On Angel, he is a smart ass and a threat. Here, he is just getting righteous when he is ironically yanked out of his reverie. It makes it even funnier!

Missy said...

Originally I listed these 3 'Wild at heart' ,'Fear itself' and 'Beer Bad'(Beer Bad obviously being the worst...of the 3)
So heres the thing after yrs of rewatches it's actually 'Fear Itself'
I don't like due to the out there material....I wanna say my "Kid" brain didn't register the continuity problems
whats sad is it's not series continuity, it's within the episode continuity so as of about 5yrs ago I have a hard time
not getting distracted by the carelessness.
I think you'd be glad to know 'I fall to pieces' is about as bad as Ats gets
(it's my least fav and everyone is right the end of s1 is where it gets gooood)
'Fear Itself'
Willow Willow Willow.....your friends&boyfriend care about you.LISTEN TO THEM!!!!!
Gotta give her props for going dressed as Joan Of Arc(One of my fav Historical figures)
Oz.....IS GOD,or he is in the buffyverse.;)
Xander AKA Secret Waiter Guy(Also much better then LilacOne)Poor Xandy(Yes I call him Xandy sometimes Lol) feeling like the loser townie....I'd choose him over the moronic college guys anyday.
ANYA+Bunnies = Funny visiual and is one of the many reasons she is in my top5 BtVS Characters.
Giles....Weird Fiesta Guy???He and Xander should have doubled for the Multicultural Dance back in s2'Inca Mummy Girl'
Buffy ,Sweet little RedRidingHood...not bad(semi-call back to 'Helples'?Me thinks)also that basket is loaded.
WTF Commandos,I just want one ep without you buggers.

Missy said...

'Beer Bad'
Now I don't love it and I don't hate it ,I find it really amusing(so much so I watched it the other night independent from the Great Buffy Rewatch).
Parker gets knocked unconcious..Once by the Cavemen(I vote Astronaut btw) and Twice by Buffy...I'm not the biggest Buffy fan but Parker deserved everything he got.I actually wish she COULD HAVE tied him up and left him in a cave vamps just happen to frequent...but 3 times the charm.BYEBYE KING DOUCHEALONG.
Willow beating Parker at his own game ....Brilliant(even though I intially thought she had fallen for his BS,back when it originally aired)
One of my fav things ever from the series:
"I'm pregnant by my stepbrother who'd rather be with my best
friend whose left me with no place to live. No food except this bottle
of wild turkey which I drank all up." Willow
Xander overcoming his townieness by being a not-so-legal-bartender.NOTHING CAN DEFEAT THE PENIS!!(I actually love that quote)
Also "Remember the boy? Boy smells good yeah? Is there any part of Buffy still in there" Lol I <3 Xander
Riley actually being the standup guy here ...Oh how I miss this.
I dig Paige Moss as an actress but Veruca is a Bitca...interesting fact apparently Paige had sung the 'Shy'(Band behind the band THC) songs in a Pop tune only to be told by Joss & the music director that they were
thinking it should by sung in a more "Personal" and 'Intimate' way.
Giles stopping random dormie to regale him with that ridiculous description of cave buffy was just plain odd.
Gotta admit I LOOOVE CaveSlayer....maybe it has something to do with my real buffy feelings or maybe seeing buffy behave like a 4yr old was too hilarious,But seriously she was awesome kinda like Brendan Fraiser in 'Encino Man' Lol
'Wild At Heart'
Cried my little eyes out 12yrs ago and I still tear up during the final scene now.
I hated Oz for a looooooong time after that.
Have to 3rd Willow's "All Geminis to the rasberry hats" quote ....I adore Willow.
Veruca = Home wrecker....kinda happy Oz killed her.
(Though it clearly damages him)
Willow: Oz, don't you love me?
Oz: My whole life, I've never loved anything else.
Sadder words have NEVER been spoken.
Really Commandos ....touching Spike,Oh yeah thats the sound of alomst every female BtVS fan coming to behead you.:D
Oh and when Feral Claire showedup my 1st thought was hey it's CaveSlayer Lol

Dusk said...

Okay if I take Beer bad as being over the top on purpose I can mostly accpt that.The obviousness of the message and my dislike of the cavemen stil win out, and Xander seemed too different ths episode.

I sort of respect Seth more now after listening to the commentary on the DVD (spoilers for rest of the Season and Season 6, be warned) stuck in the real outdoors with all the crew, and Veruca's actual boyfriend supposedly stopped by, all while he was in a "man-thong."

Marebabe said...

@Nikki: We have something else in common. I also can’t stand beer. (“Beer yucky.”) I can’t gag down most kinds of alcohol, but I occasionally go for sweet drinks, like a vodka Collins (extra cherries!) or my favorite, a nice tuna colada. And of course, Asti. It’s a coincidence that I was self-medicating while watching “Beer Bad”. It wasn’t a deliberate decision to “put on the beer-goggles” to make something unattractive seem better. I’d been having a lot of neck tension and neck pain for a few days, and at the start of the holiday weekend, it seemed like the perfect time to REALLY relax and unwind. It worked out beautifully!

@Chris: I was fascinated by your explanation (or was it just a theory?) about how the Network is ultimately to blame for “Beer Bad”. Someone should ask Joss about that in an interview. Or did you learn about this from reading an interview that Joss did? It makes sense to me!

@Page48: I had forgotten about Terry O’Quinn’s role in “Places in the Heart”. It’s so fun for LOST fans to discover their beloved actors in other projects. Like when I spotted Sam Anderson (Bernard) playing the school principal at the beginning of “Forrest Gump”. Fabulous! (And LOL for “Barf bad”!)

@Everyone: Since Steve/Janet Halfyard hasn’t mentioned it yet, I’ll just bring up a thing that Blam and I have briefly discussed in the comments under last week’s Buffy post. The four-note motif at the beginning of the Buffy theme is also used at the beginning of the Angel theme. It’s reworked so that it sounds very different, obviously, but it’s still the same four little notes. And I just think that’s brilliant!

Stephanie said...

Hello everyone! I'm new here, but I've watched Buffy since it first aired. I've even worn out a set of dvd's (and tapes) re-watching it over and over again lol. I've read all the past rewatch weeks and thought I would keep up with it and start to comment. So here is my very long response to these three episodes, mostly consisting of favorite quotes (I often rewatch episodes after a favorite quote pops into my head)

Fear Itself…

Willow “it does appear to be mocking you with its eye holes”

Xander after Buffy is all mopey about Parker “on that happy note….”

Xander: “saaad Buffy”

Willow “she didn’t even touch her pumpkin- it’s a freak with no face”

Oz- so cute concerned about Willow getting hurt doing magic. “Supportive boyfriend guy is at the drycleaners”

Buffy- “OH. MY. GOD.” re: Fiesta Giles
Giles: “It’s aliiiiiiveeee!!!” So adorable. I was pretty close to buying a fiesta Giles action figure on ebay, but I resisted. Too far. Too far. lol

Anya’s understanding of an “anniversary”- “It’s been exactly one week since we copulated”

Buffy’s Mom sewing her costume reminds me of my mom, who used to make me costumes too (just not when I was in College) Plus I had overprotective Halloween Dad too- I had to wear a snow suit under my costume to stay warm!

LOL at Lobster costume!

Xander “what you got in the basket little girl?” Buffy- “weapons.”

Buffy “Thank the lord” Oz- “You’re welcome”

Buffy “We need the only person who can make sense of what is happening” – cut to Giles in his fiesta outfit eating candy… lol

Willow’s stellar comeback “oh yeahhh… well… so’s your face!”

I don’t understand why the crossbow is the weapon of choice- episode and episode again the crossbow as a weapon is proven useless. A small handheld axe sounds like a better choice to me.

Giles’ face when he chainsaws through the room- lol so serious.

Xander- staring at Anya eating chocolate. Waves his finger “that’s your scary costume?”

Why is the original script included on the dvd? Is there some interesting/funny nugget(s) in there I should be reading?

next... Wild at Heart. I will skip Beer Bad because I'm in the "Anti Beer Bad" camp. Horrible, horrible episode.

Stephanie said...

Wild at Heart

Giles at the Bronze; “Hello All…” lol awkward looks from the gang. Poor Giles is so bored.

Veruka writhing on the stage while “singing” … euck… her “performance” is contrived (not the actress, but the character) she strikes me as one of those people who tries very hard to express their “deepness” and how different they think they are from everyone else.

Willow excited: “ You made me jealous of you academically Buffy!!”

Buff and her head scarf- gag, I remember those things. I had a few of them too.

Veruka “I like to eat. I hate it when chicks are like ‘does that have dressing on it?’” You’re so much better than "normal girls" Veruka. *aggressive eye roll*

Willow- so cute trying to get involved in the “music talk” between Oz and Veruka but ending up embarrassed and left out. That situation sucks.

Willow- “how come you never told me I look like a crazy birthday cake in this shirt?” haha- that shirt looks like a birthday cake threw up on her, but I won't hold it against her.

Buffy ”I’m sure oz is probably flogging and punishing himself…”

Awww at Willow in her “new clothes” to try and make sexy times with Oz. Did she borrow those leather pants from Buffy’s extensive leather pant collection?

I wonder why Willow didn’t question Oz’s laundromat clothes- Oz doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who would own a sage green polo shirt and grey sweatpants.

LOL at Giles watching TV. Poor Giles- so bored again.

Oz yelling “leave…NOW!!” aaaghhhh! Oz raising his voice above a murmur is so foreign.

Here’s my thoughts on Willow cheating vs Oz cheating. Though this isn’t an excuse for his cheating, to be fair, Oz is not 100% human. He is part animal- part werewolf… in this word, somewhat part demon. Plus he is a relatively new werewolf. I don’t think he understands how much the werewolf part of him takes over and influences his decisions or senses/ “animal instincts”. For example- even when he’s in human form he can still “follow scents.” Like he says towards the end of the episode- he doesn’t know where the animals starts and he ends. I think that IS different from Willow cheating with Xander. At least he still admits that he loves Willow before he leaves. But seriously, Allison crying gets me every time. She is so good!

Marebabe said...

Welcome, Stephanie! (I'm suddenly feeling all nostalgic for Nikki's LOST rewatch. Many, many new people came on board during that year, and it was always fun to greet the newbies.) Glad you could make it! :)

Stephanie said...

Thanks! I can't remember how I found the site, but I'm going to order Bite Me soon. It's nice to see people still talking about Buffy :) I'm trying desperately (for 5 years) to get my boyfriend to watch Buffy (he's a big Lost fan) but he won't, just to spite me I think. I mean, he watches Glee for gods sake! (not a glee fan) He will have to pry my Buffy dvds from my cold dead hands.

JavaChick said...

So far behind on the rewatch! Didn't realize we were this far into season 4. I like Season 4 a lot, it has some fun episodes.

Fear Itself I love, if only for the ending. Beer Bad is not my favorite episode, but it has some good moments.

Wild At Heart just destroyed me the first time I watched it. I was bawling during the episode. Then I went to bed that night and started bawling again. It still makes me sob to this day.

Unknown said...

Love is too strong a word, but I definitely don't hate "Beer Bad". There are a couple of great Xander moments. I love his repetition of "rough day" as a pickup line and then him using it in an earnest and heartfelt manner when he sees Buffy. I also love his practicing the cigarette lighter and then hot sorority girl wants a light and Xander ignores her:)

Fear, Itself is actually my least favorite of this trio. I HATE the ending. SOOOOO stupid. I don't even find it funny. I was just like, "huh? That's the ending? Really?" Oh well.

Wild at Heart is heartbreaking, and even though I love, LOVE, OZ. . .there are some problems here and I don't think he's wrong to leave. a) he is captivated with Veruca on a physical, primal level, as we have seen for a couple of episodes. b) he pulls her into the cage as a human, not as the wolf (even for others' good) and c) he does throw Willow's stupid Xander kiss at her afterwards. Plus he's a high school dropout who shows no ambition beyond playing in his band and skips out on college to play gigs, while Willow is exploding with learning, his concerns about her doing magic and his fear about his ability to control his Wolfy side. . .all is not perfect in Oz and Willow land, nor has it been for quite some time. It doesn't make it not sad:(

Tom D. said...

This is a small point, but Oz isn't a high school dropout. He repeated the 12th grade, but he evidently graduated with Buffy et al. Otherwise, how would he be attending college classes with Buffy and Willow (which we see him doing, even if he skips some of them)?

More generally, I don't see a problem there. Oz is clearly on Willow's intellectual level, even if he's somewhat laid-back in his approach to college. I don't see how his being a musician was causing problems for their relationship, except for the coincidence that he met Veruca through the music scene.

I'm not necessarily arguing that Oz was wrong to leave. It's complicated. But, given how thoroughly at fault he is with the Veruca thing, maybe he should have stayed and asked for forgiveness rather than leaving and breaking Willow's heart even more. And does it really make sense for him to think it will be easier to deal with his werewolf situation all alone rather than surrounded by his friends?

(Stuff like this is why I thought Wild At Heart, not Beer Bad, was the polarizing episode of the week.)

Nikki Stafford said...

I think the only reason the Love camp appears to be winning is because those who didn't hate it are sticking up for it, while those who did just assume it's not worth talking about. ;)

I call it a draw.

Anyway, to further clarify what Tom just said about Oz's education, he didn't actually repeat the 12th grade in its entirety... he's a whiz who had crazy high scores, but then he forgot to take French or some course he had to take that was an essential class, and therefore when he should have graduated a year ago, he had to return just to take that one course. That's why we often saw him just hanging out rather than being in class, because he just had the one. I think he's depicted as one of those people who is naturally brilliant and doesn't have to work for the high marks. You know, like me.


lyssiria said...

So hi, I'm new here too. I've never had the guts to reply to such a good conversation. Lest you think I'm a total noob, I've been a Buffy fan since that first episode aired. I'm just a noob at blogs.

So here's what I think about 'Beer Bad.'

This is one of my favorite episodes. Always has been. It's the hilarity I think that really cements it as one of my personal faves. I mean, there are so many great one-liners in it. 'Suffering the afterness of a bad night of badness'? Genius. That's EXACTLY what it feels like to be hung over. Now down to business:

All that 'mopey Parker crap' is not about Parker himself. It's about Buffy, her self-esteem, and not just a little bit about Angel and how the end of that relationship left her crushed. Of course, Buffy IS hurt that Parker doesn't want her - what girl wouldn't be? Her ego is wounded. BUT it's more about how Buffy feels dumb. She says she 'knew what he was.' But did she really? And even if she did, still, every time she lets a guy get close, this transformation happens where he becomes a horrendous douchebag. I feel that one of the reasons the fans are so bent out of shape that Buffy's still upset over Parker is because when it was Angel she was getting over: 1 - she knew he was leaving and purposefully distanced herself and 2 - we didn't SEE her all mopey. There wasn't time. Does anybody consider what Buffy must have gone through during the summer months? Just because the hurt isn't raw and visible, doesn't mean it's not there. And the pain of Parker's rejection fuels the deeper crushing hurt that still exists for Angel.

To quote Jennifer Stuller "To all you haters – I know I’m not the only girl who acted dumb around an id-boy she later wished she could knock unconscious with a big stick. How cathartic that our girl gets to do it." And that's exactly what it is - catharsis. It's not ours though, it's Buffy's. She does get to club big, stinky Parker over the head with a heavy stick. Drubbing him over the head is metaphorical (or possibly "transferry") for doing the same to Angel. Which she doesn't get to do. She feels bad for sending him to hell, and for the Faith thing, but she'd never ACTUALLY consider retaliating physically. But when she hits Parker over the head (both times) she can pretend (because isn't that what we do when we can't get what we want?) that it's Angel.

@Dusk - You said that Xander seemed too different in this episode for you. Consider that he's trying to fit in with his friends' "collegey life" and still hasn't figured out how yet. The point of this season is that everything is different. The setting, the 'monsters' and even this close-knit group's friendship. (My husband said a similar thing about Rand in Brandon Sanderson's new Wheel of Time books, and I told him then that Rand HAS to be different. Not because he's written by a different author, but because he himself has changed.)

Possibly I'm dense, but the first time I saw this episode, I didn't make the connection between beer and the cavemen. Obviously I knew they transformed BECAUSE they drank the beer, but I didn't think it was a statement on underage drinking. Wasn't even a consideration. I prefer Chris's take on it: that it was retaliation from the producers to network pressure.

And OMG I thoroughly enjoyed the face-off between the loves and hates.

Dusk said...

@ Rebbeca-True about Xander and college, but he's had similar strugles before being the only one of the core Scoobies without any powers or knowlege. Even for him, he stil seemd off to me.

Anonymous said...

I thought there was some heavy-handed metaphor in "Beer Bad", but I didn't think it had anything to do with the beer. I thought it was a lot more about karma/comeuppance/what goes around comes around... the college kids being dicks to their bartenders, Parker being Parker... the beer was just a device for delivering cosmic justice. I certainly didn't feel after-school-specialed like after some episodes ("Surprise" and "Innocence", "Seeing Red", "Wrecked").

Blam said...

Welcome, Stephanie!

... I say presumptuously, not being around much myself these days.

Here are mostly brief, scattered, belated thoughts on this week's viewing (plus the essays and everyone's comments thereupon).

Buffy 4.4 "Fear Itself"
in which Anya is cute but the haunted house is undoorable

I don't know why the gang knocks Fantasia as poor Halloween fare. "Night on Bald Mountain" is pretty danged scary. And Willow could at least have made a funny pro or con about "Sorcerer's Apprentice".

Oz doesn't think that the dude etching the sigil might possibly be conjuring up some bad mojo?

My favorite exchange —

Willow: "I'm Joan of Arc. I figured we had a lot in common, seeing as how I was almost burned at the stake — and plus she had that close relationship with God."
Xander: "And you are?"
Oz: (reveals God nametag)

VW: snall — Nose made by English dogs.

Blam said...

Buffy 4.5 "Beer Bad"
in which Buffy drinks magicked-up brewskis and turns into the love child of Avril Lavigne and Adam Duritz

The fake ID that Xander got to work as a bartender doesn't make much sense. I recall that when I was in college — granted, a half-dozen years before these guys, and in another state — you could apply for a license to tend bar if you were under 21 (although I think you did have to be over 18). Of course it would be just like Xander not to have found that out, but the episode could have pointed out his failure to do so in-scene; also, it could have been better in so many other ways.

Enchanted ale turning the kids stupid? Okay, fine. Also making with the hair-growing and caveman-turning-into? Uh... No. Maybe this is walking a suspension-of-disbelief tightrope, but I've always been more accepting of outright transformations, like the Hulk, than ones that supposedly regress characters into Neanderthal states but then get reversed without leaving a mark.

My favorite exchange —

Buffy: "I'm suffering the afterness of a bad night of... badness."
Willow: "You didn't — not with Parker again."
Buffy: "No. With four really smart guys."
Willow: "Four? Oh. Ow."

Xander's "Nothing can defeat the penis!" was not just too loud but awkwardly dubbed. Can you imagine being in the booth for ADR working on getting that one just right?

VW: pastanan — Mother's helper whose sold job is to make sure you're loaded up on carbs.

Blam said...

Buffy 4.6 "Wild at Heart"
in which Willow must endure a Veruca assault

Joss Whedon, producer / episode writer Marti Noxon, and Seth Green offer an amusing commentary for this episode on disc, but it's done from hindsight with spoilers — as all of the commentaries are, really, so I hope you first-time watchers get to enjoy them on rewatch at some point.

I just don't get the super-hairy wolf outfits. Not only do the werewolves lack facial features resembling wolves in the least, but their bodies are way shaggier than actual wolves' are.

Paige Moss looks like a cross between Tara Reid and Donna Murphy.

My favorite exchange —

Oz: "Leave."
Veruca: "I'm just saying —"
Oz: "Now!"

So much heartbreak...

VW: poweries — Cheap housing districts for down-and-out superheroes.

Blam said...

@Nikki: I wish I could go even further back in time (and closer to home) and visit the writer of this episode who happens to be from... gulp... Toronto... and beg her not to go to Ryerson to take the writing course there, convincing her instead that she just might have a colourful future career as a florist. I mean, it’s such a great-smelling job!

She'd probably end up working for Bloomex.

@Janet/Steve: [T]here’s a sort of metadiegetic thing going on here (sorry for the jargon), by which I mean that the music is arguably audible to Buffy as the soundtrack in her imaginary scene.

Yes! And great stuff all around, as usual!

@David: I gave up on Vampires [sic] Diaries after only two

I gave up after one; the pilot was eh, and I had too much else to watch (on Thursdays, especially). Then I started watching Season One repeats last summer, on friends' recommendations, and got hooked. No, it's not Buffy — it's all plot and character, devoid of any allegory, just teen angst and action and arcs of mythology — but it's all the better for not trying to be (better than it would be if were trying to play on Buffy's level, that is, not actually better than Buffy is).

@Marebabe: I LOVE Festive Giles! The wacky sombrero with the fringe was just the right degree of “too much”.

Well said!

@Marebabe: a fabulous medium-rare grilled rib-eye steaky-wake

Um... Is Steaky-Wake that new caffeinated beef I've been hearing about?

Blam said...

@Marebabe: I agree that Veruca’s lip-sync performance is completely unbelievable, but it’s more than just her over-doing it. The vocals sound so studio-engineered, so mixed and polished, there’s no way a live performance could ever sound like that. It really kills the illusion. Glee has that problem in spades.

No kidding! I hate that on shows, Buffy included, and it's really galling on Glee; I forgive it during the sequences that are obviously intending to be fantasy montages (and even those that I can convince myself to write off as such), but having the voices sound so treated really doesn't do the majority of cast members who can really sing any favors and it totally destroys suspension of disbelief. A similar peeve that just cropped up in some Buffy episode is when the live band lacks instrumentation that's on the track they're syncing to, or there's an acoustic drummer hittin' the skins to what is obviously actually a drum machine.

@Dusk (Colleen too): [T]he library cage stayed intact but the big one breaks?

We get no indication that it had broken before now, though, and Oz has apparently been using it for a while. My take was that Oz was so het up by his (basically literal) attraction to find Veruca that he had more adrenaline than usual. Purpose gives one surprising strength.

@Marebabe: or my favorite, a nice tuna colada

I had to Google that on the off-chance it wasn't a typo, and wish I hadn't.

@Marebabe: @Everyone: Since Steve/Janet Halfyard hasn’t mentioned it yet, I’ll just bring up a thing that Blam and I have briefly discussed in the comments under last week’s Buffy post. The four-note motif at the beginning of the Buffy theme is also used at the beginning of the Angel theme. It’s reworked so that it sounds very different, obviously, but it’s still the same four little notes. And I just think that’s brilliant!

Totally... While I said that it was the first three notes of the four-note intro, you're correct that it's all four but with the fourth one an octave higher.

@Rebecca: Lest you think I'm a total noob, I've been a Buffy fan since that first episode aired. I'm just a noob at blogs.

I was a noob at blogs a couple of years ago when I began posting here at the start of Lost Season Five, and in short order I was treated like an old friend. Comment early, comment often! [At least I have the second one of those two down.]

VW: Lytor — Planet with a Butane atmosphere.

Colleen/redeem147 said...

I just started reading The Vampire Diaries but don't watch the show. How close is the series to the books? Because they were written years before Buffy started.

Marebabe said...

@Blam: “She’d probably end up working for Bloomex.” Ha!

The term “steaky-wake” came from “A Clockwork Orange”. My husband and I liked how cute it sounded, so steaks have been steaky-wakes for us ever since the early 70s. It fits in perfectly with our philosophy that it’s fun to talk wrong. (Example: to refer to someone’s car as a Satrun, rather than a Saturn.) Anyway, I feel embarrassed about the tuna colada reference. To me, it was just more talking wrong, and Chevy Chase originated it (I thought) in the movie, “Caddyshack”. It’s not the first time I’ve learned late about pop culture stuff. Anyway, I am partial to sweet, fruity drinks, like pina coladas and strawberry daiquiris.

Blam said...

@Marebabe: I need to do a classic-movie rewatch. Lately at family dinners I've even noticed myself missing some lines from Airplane!.

VW: unlizes — Takes off one's makeup after performing in a Liza Minnelli tribute show.

Marebabe said...

@Blam: Don't call me Shirley! ;)

Blam said...

I definitely want to set my thoughts on the concurrent Angel episodes apart in case they're spoilery for anyone not up to date on that series. Do not read this comment if'n you ain't seen 'em and plan to! Do try to get caught up by next week, though, as there is some inter-series syncage...

...he wrote before "next week" became "earlier this week". @#$%!

Well, I suppose I'll still share some quick observations as yet unmade by anyone else (unless I missed something).

The client in "I Fall to Pieces" has one heck of a house to herself for somebody with a middle-class office job.

So the paralytic slows down your heart? I have no problem with vampires whose hearts pump and blood flows — it makes sense from a practical storytelling perspective — but the Slayerverse has established otherwise.

The beat cop in this episode is played by Brent Sexton, now on AMC's The Killing (or, as I call it, The Soaking Dead).

We discover in "Rm w/a Vu" that Cordy, or at least Charisma, has a tr— uh, lower-back tattoo. Jane Espenson, delightful scribe of this quirky episode, mentions in her DVD commentary that they tried to keep it hidden; if that's the case, she should've worn more shirts that actually extend down below her pants' waistline.

Although we've known since at least "The Zeppo" on Buffy that Cordelia had a pop-culture wit seemingly at odds with her superficial character (although entirely consistent with your usual Joss Whedon character skill set), it's still strange to hear in "Sense and Sensitivity" not just a Jar-Jar reference but later the line, directed at Angel and Kate, "Mr. & Mrs. Spock need to mind-meld now."

Herb Saunders! Baltimore!

VW: preashes — Delivers a sermon under the influence.

Ronald Helfrich Jnr. said...

Ms. Crowse was once married to David Mamet. She starred in his wonderful House of Games.

Ronald Helfrich Jnr. said...

Speaking of Mamet, some commentators have detected a bit of Mamet parody in season four of Buffy...