Previously: Buffy and Cordelia had a queen bee-off, and Mr. Trick organised Slayerfest ’98. Also, Willow and Xander sucked face, and NO GOD MAKE IT STOP.
Kirsti: I’m going to start out by saying that this is one of my all time favourite BtVS episodes. I love it so freaking much. Everything about it is phenomenal, and nothing you say can convince me otherwise.
We open in the cemetery at night. Buffy sits on a picnic blanket as Giles reads from a book: “‘And on that day, an era came to its inevitable end’. That’s all there is.” Just when you’re thinking big apocalypse-y prophecy, NOPE. SAT prep.
Lorraine: Same, same but different!
K: Buffy makes guesses based on which letters haven’t come up in a while, and Giles gets cranky, telling her that she needs to take it seriously and it’s a rite of passage. And it’s once again occurring to me that I probably shouldn’t cover episodes where American rights of passage happen, because I have negative a millionty understanding of how the SATs work.
Lor: Let’s see: HUGE STANDARDIZED TEST. MANY PRESSURES. In a nutshell.
Sweeney: Pretty much. We tell teenagers that which bubbles they fill in will decide their future. But really we’re just fucking with them.
Anyway, Buffy’s saved by the appearance of a vampire. She rolls over a headstone, and starts fighting before ultimately slaying the vampire with her pencil.
Lor: Seriously? A pencil? Every episode the weapons with which they slay seem to get flimsier and flimsier. Why carry stakes at all, B? They can’t be comfy. Keep a pencil or a freakin’ spatula handy.
K: It really makes me wonder how Kakistos got to be thousands of years old if all it takes to kill a vampire is a pencil or a spatula…
She looks briefly at the lead and gets all “Awww, it’s broken, too bad HOMETIME NOW!!” only to have Giles – who, I should add, is wearing a very confusing paisley scarf – present her with a replacement pencil. She sits down looking mopey and says, “I just know that us and the undead are the only people in Sunnydale working this late.”
At that, we cut to City Hall where the Mayor is chatting with Mr. Trick. Apparently a demon requires tribute and the Mayor (who I once saw play King Arthur in Spamalot in New York) needs Mr. Trick to sort some stuff out to ensure that it happens. The Mayor unlocks a cupboard in his office to reveal shrunken heads and bones and whatnot, just in case we weren’t already twigging to the fact that the Mayor = BAD GUY ZOMG. “Now, where did I put that scotch?” he says, and the credits roll.
At school the next morning, Buffy shares her SAT related nightmares with Oz and Willow. Oz offers to coach her on account of he took the SATs the previous year. Willow does the proud thing, and it’s adorable.(L: WHATEVER. She kissed Xander.) (S: Truth. I’M NOT READY TO FORGIVE YOU, WILLOW.) Cordy and Xander approach. Xander mopes about the SATs as further proof of his “I’m a crappy student” status, while Cordy says that she’s looking forward to it because YAY STANDARDISED TESTS! Oh, Cordy. Don’t ever change…
Sweeney: Her “What? I can’t have layers?” comment was fantastic, because this is a question everyone often asks about Cordelia.
K: SO MUCH. Willow asks Buffy if she wants to study that night, and Buffy says she can’t because Joyce wants to spend quality time, and also Giles is on her back. “It’s like living in the Real World house…only REAL.” (L: Either sadly, or amazingly, a reference that remains relevant.) The gang enter the cafeteria, where Snyder is handing out boxes of chocolate bars. After momentary, “ooooh, free candy!” excitement, they’re ordered by Snyder to sell it and raise money for the marching band.
Snyder: “They need new uniforms”
Xander: “Those tall fuzzy hats ain’t cheap, huh?”
Oz: “Yeah, but they go with everything.”
Oh, Oz. You’re my favourite.
At home, Joyce is all, “But you’re not in the band”, because apparently it’s state the obvious day. (Although to be fair, Buffy made the same point to Snyder.) Buffy says that she should take the chocolate bars to the gallery and give them away – “Buy something Precolumbian, get a free cavity!” Joyce agrees to take half of them, and I sulk a little because whenever we had to sell boxes of M&Ms for school, my dad always flat out refused to take them to work, resulting in the need to either take them back to school unsold, or spend hours convincing my mum that we needed twenty giant boxes of M&Ms “just in case.” In case of WHAT, I have no idea. 15 year old me was not big on the details.
Lor: +1 on the “my mom never helped” front. She wouldn’t take it to work and would not buy. I ended up scrounging up under the couch change to buy some of it and the rest went unsold.
Sweeney: I loved these Sell Shit For Your School activities. I’ve never really liked people, but I was always super good at getting them to give me money. In elementary school I signed up for an organization that gave you the opportunity to sell catalog crap to your poor neighbors ALL. YEAR. LONG.
Candy bars are easy, guys. You just have to be willing to be the asshole who lugs the box around school all day. Pride and an unwillingness to commit social suicide seems to prevent many students from doing this, but if you do, you’ll sell the box to your classmates within a couple days.
K: Yeaaaaaaah, when everyone in the year level is selling them, it’s kind of hard to sell them to your classmates…
Anyway, Buffy says that Joyce is a good mother, and Joyce replies “The best,” which HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, WHUT. Joyce. Honey. The best mothers don’t kick their teenaged daughters out of the house and tell them to never come back. Buffy whines that the best mothers let their daughters drive. Joyce points out that Buffy failed all the tests, and this confuses me greatly because do you not need a learner’s permit to be able to drive in America?
Lor: Sure you do! I mean, if you get caught.
K: Oh. See, in Australia? You have to have a fully licensed driver in the car AT ALL TIMES when you’re on your learner’s permit. And a fully licensed driver (at least in Victoria) is a minimum of 21 years old. So it’s kind of hard to not get caught. Never say that we don’t teach you things here at Snark Squad. BECAUSE WE DO.
Anyway, Buffy says that she doesn’t test well, and then adds “…she says, two days before the SATs” to the end of it. Probably not a move that’s going to help, Buff. And it doesn’t – Joyce says that she spends enough time not knowing where Buffy is, and doesn’t want to add in the possibility that she’s driving to Chicago. Buffy gets all “Um, I could just catch a bus. DUH.” and Joyce gets her serious face on about wanting Buffy at home. At which Buffy says that she has to leave because she’s training/studying with Giles.
We cut to the Wiggins Library, where Giles is tying a blindfold around Buffy’s eyes. She asks why she puts up with this, and his reply is “Because it is your destiny. And because I just bought twenty cocoa-rific candy bars.” Hey Giles? Let’s go ahead and file “cocoa-rific” under things that should never be said again, mmmkay? He puts a dodgeball in Buffy’s hands, and she’s all “WTF??”. Apparently he wants to test whether she can tell where an opponent is in total darkness. He tells her to wait five seconds and then throw the ball at him. When she turns away from him to throw, he gets all smug and “It’s not that simple is…ow“, as the ball rebounds off the wall and hits him in the head. Buffy bails, saying that Joyce wants her home.
Sweeney: WAIT. I JUST REMEMBERED A THING THAT HAPPENS A LONG WHILE LATER AND I JUST WANT US ALL TO REMEMBER THIS MOMENT. REMEMBER THAT BUFFY IS BLINDFOLDED AND MANAGES TO THROW A BALL AT A WALL TO HIT GILES. Sorry. Consider this a “BOOKMARK IT” moment, and a suggestion that you skip over the purple sections of today’s post.
K: Cut to the mansion where a shirtless Angel is doing tai chi in the garden. His movements aren’t quite as smooth as they should be, and thanks to the Tinkly Pianos of Feels, he looks like he’s doing a really awkward interpretive dance.
He spots Buffy in the doorway, and she says “I didn’t know you could do that.” Neither did we, Buffy. Neither did we. He gets all collapse-y because apparently interpretive dance really takes it out of you when you’ve been in a hell dimension, and Buffy helps him back inside. There’s some awkward “We love each other but probably shouldn’t be around each other” subtext and banal small talk. It ends with Angel saying that he’s getting stronger, and that that’s better because soon he won’t need her to bring him blood any more. Buffy sad pandas as the Clarinet of Mopeyness starts in the background.
Lor: Just to be clear, what’s the assumption here? That Buffy’s heart was broken so she’s keeping her distance? Oooor is that whole “man breaking vagina” thing still in place? No, right? ‘Cause the curse is gone?
Probably my questions could just boil down to, “why can’t they kiss and make-up, HUH?”
K: It’s just occurred to me that we spend a frightening amount of time discussing Buffy’s man-breaking vagina. This disturbs me greatly.
Cut to the Summers house. Buffy enters to find Joyce and Giles waiting for her. BUUUUUUUUUSTED. They’re understandably cranky pants about the lying. The impact of the “Really? We should trust you after you ran away??” speech that she gets from Joyce is somewhat lessened by the fact that Joyce and Giles are both stuffing their faces with chocolate. Giles effectively sends Buffy to bed with no supper, and then he and Joyce eat some more chocolate while some ominous sounding music plays. Cut to a factory where a man pulls a chocolate bar from a box on the assembly line. A hand stops him from eating it, and the camera pans out to reveal Ethan Rayne. I bounce in my chair a little, because I secretly think Ethan Rayne is an awesome bad guy. “Trust me. You don’t want to eat that,” he says, and we fade to black.
At school, the gang are sitting in a science lab waiting for their study hall teacher to arrive. It’s meant to be Giles, and Buffy’s all concerned because Giles is never late. At the table behind, Xander eats a chocolate bar while playing footsies with Willow, and NO. DO NOT WANT. MAKE IT STOP.
Sweeney: THIS MAKES ME SO GAG-Y. EW. EW. EW. STOP IT.
K: So much. They spring apart when Cordy turns around, and who the fuck plays footsies with someone when their girlfriend is sitting directly in front of them?!?!? JFC, Xander.
Lor: You totally baited me with that line to recall the one time Ana gave Grey a hand job at a table with his parents, sister and grandparents. Klassy.
K: Ew. Cordy mopes about the fact that Giles isn’t there and that she’s bored, and we head outside the classroom to see Snyder eating a chocolate bar and telling an old lady teacher that he doesn’t want to take study hall, so she has to do it. She enters the classroom and this happens:
Ms. Barton: We’re all stuck here, okay? So now let’s just sit quietly and pretend we’re reading something until we’re really sure that old Commandant Snyder’s gone. Then we’re ALL outta here!”
Xander: “Anyone else want to marry Ms. Barton?”
Cordy: “Get in line!”
Willow expresses concern about Giles, and we cut to Buffy heading into Giles’ apartment. She says she was worried about him, and then realises that Joyce is there. Giles says that the two of them needed to have a pow-wow about Buffy and them over-scheduling her. Joyce says that they need more time to sort out the schedule, and tells Buffy to take the keys and drive home. Buffy, after a brief moment of “HUH???” grabs the keys and runs out. As the door closes behind her, Joyce says “Think she noticed anything?” as Giles lights up a cigarette and I suspect that this is about the point that Lor’s brain explodes.
Lor: I kind of had a feeling. BUT. If they start kissing, me and my brain are OUT OF HERE.
K: Sorry, Lor’s brain. Cut to Joyce’s Jeep where Buffy has clearly stopped to pick up a nervous looking Willow. Understandably too, because Buffy apparently doesn’t understand what indicators are for, or which side of the road you’re meant to drive on in the US. Also, Willow has to point out to her that she still has the handbrake on. Wowsers. They’re heading to the Bronze as we cut back to Giles’ place, where he and Joyce are listening to ‘Tales of Brave Ulysses” by Cream as Giles lights up a couple more cigarettes and hands one to Joyce, who calls him Ripper. Ripper, who I should mention has an accent that’s much more Essex than Oxford, wants to go out somewhere. Joyce suggests the Bronze, but Ripper says that the Bronze is dead.
At that, we cut to the Bronze, where Dingoes Ate My Baby are playing to a packed room of parental types. Buffy and Willow enter, and stare around them in confusion.
L: The way Oz’s face lights up when he sees Willow breaks my heart. WHY IS SHE DOING THIS?
K: Drugs. That’s literally the only explanation I have.
“Let’s do the Time Warp again,” Buffy says and OKAY IF YOU INSIST!!
You’re welcome, Sweeney.
Sweeney: I LOVE YOU FOREVER.
K: I do what I can. Anyway, they encounter Ms. Barton, who’s high and looking for nachos, (S: And calls Willow “little tree” which is great.) and Snyder, who’s decided they’re his new BFFs. The girls are horrified. “They’re acting like a bunch of US!“, Buffy says, and we cut to the factory. Ethan tells Mr. Trick that demand is high, and Mr. Trick tells him to keep it up because it’s nearly feeding time. Back at the Bronze, the gang are pondering what’s causing the change in the adults. A middle aged couple suck face, and Buffy looks disgusted, adding “No vampire has EVER been that scary.” A fight breaks out between a couple of adults, and Buffy realises that everyone is eating chocolate bars. She, Willow and Oz set off to find Giles, fearing that he’ll be teenager-ised as well. Snyder decides he’s going to come along for the ride.
Sweeney: I love that teenager Snyder is this awkward hanger-on-er. It’s fantastic.
K: So much. Cue a montage of adults acting like teenagers – drag racing, feeling each other up in the park, stealing cheques from other people’s mail. In the car, Willow’s trying to reassure herself:
Willow: It’ll be okay when we get to Giles.
Oz: Of course. I mean, even if he’s sixteen, he’s still Giles, right? He’s probably a pretty together guy.
Willow: Yeah, well…
Buffy: Giles at sixteen? Less ‘together guy’, more ‘bad magic, hates the world, ticking time bomb guy’.
At that, we cut to Ripper and Joyce walking through the streets with their arms around each other. She sees a jacket that she likes in a closed store, and Ripper smashes the window with a rubbish bin and takes it for her. A cop with a gun confronts them, and HOLY HELL there is some phenomenal acting from Anthony Stewart Head in this episode.
Sweeney: +1. Giles/Ripper absolutely makes this episode for me.
K: 159% why I love this episode so much. He grabs the cop’s gun, and knocks him out with a headbutt, then puts the gun in a mailbox. Joyce is all “Oh Ripper, you’re so brave”, and they suck face before Ripper lays Joyce down on the hood of the police car. Thankfully, the camera pans away and spares us all the gagging.
Lor: NOPE. STILL GAGGING.
K: Meanwhile, Buffy and the gang have been in a car accident, thanks to a guy unwrapping a chocolate bar while driving. The guy runs off, and Buffy wigs out at the state of the car. Suddenly the gang realise that everyone’s out at night and free from inhibitions, but there are no vampires to be seen. Clearly, something Hellmouth-y is going down. They decide that the chocolate must be cursed. Buffy tells Snyder to lead her to the source of the chocolate bars, while Willow and Oz grab Cordy and Xander and get into research mode.
At the factory, Ripper and Joyce make out some more as free candy is being given out. Buffy and Snyder arrive, and Buffy has a “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING, YOUNG LADY??” moment with Joyce, which is kind of hilarious. There’s some more role reversal, and Ripper tells Buffy to sod off. Literally. She pulls his cigarette out of his mouth and stamps on it before breaking into the factory, dragging Ripper and Joyce with her. They find Ethan, who makes a break for it.
Cut to the Wiggins Library where Cordy is understandably grossed out by the second childhood thing – apparently her mum borrowed her clothes while her dad locked himself in the bathroom with old copies of Esquire. Ew.
Xander points out that he’s had a ton of chocolate and doesn’t feel immature, and then realises the idiocy of that statement. He and Willow graze hands, and some shmoopy music starts playing. Xander heads back to the stacks where Oz is standing, and Willow watches the two of them. “Want to swap?” Cordy says, and Willow has a moment of “OH MY GOD, SHE KNOWS!” before realising that Cordy’s talking about the books. She’s awkward about it.
Back at the factory, Ethan’s on the run. He vanishes from sight, before Buffy finds him hiding in a wooden crate, which seems completely implausible considering it’s in the middle of a wall of boxes. But whatever. It’s still an awesome scene. Ethan starts talking, but Ripper thinks it’s not fast enough and keeps encouraging Buffy to hit him. When she finally does, Giles does a little skip in the air. (L:!) Hilarious.
Ethan spills the beans. Apparently the demon is called Lurconis, and the tribute is so big that people had to be out of it for them to get it. ”What’s the tribute?” Buffy asks, and we cut to the hospital. The switchboard rings out of control while a nurse eats chocolate and watches TV. Four vampires enter and head to the nursery, unchallenged. They each pick up a newborn, and walk out.
Sweeney: WORST. WHY? WHY BABIES? I DON’T LIKE THIS; IT MAKES ME SAD.
K: But bonus points for correct use of a semi-colon.
Buffy phones the gang at the Wiggins Library and asks them to look into the tribute. While she’s on the phone, Ethan tries to hit her over the head with a crowbar, but Ripper stops him by pulling a gun. Buffy takes the gun, and then asks for something to tie up Ethan. Joyce hands her a pair of handcuffs, and Buffy says “NEVER tell me“, with a grossed out look on her face.
Cut to the hospital. Ripper recommends that they “find the demon and kick the crap out of it“. He then has a moment of
contrivance Giles-esque clarity, stating that they’ll find Lurconis in the sewers. Snyder and Ripper get into a shoving match, which Buffy has to break up. She says that she needs help, from actual adults, and says that there’s no room for mistakes. Also that they should stop freaking her out. And that Ripper and Joyce should stop face nomming. This particular moment of face nomming is made worse by the fact that I just noticed that Ripper is chewing Joyce’s gum when they stop. Ew…
Down in the sewers, the four vampires are wearing monk robes, and the babies are lying in a stone altar thing. Mr. Trick and the Mayor stand by while one of the vampires anoints the babies with blood. Buffy and Ripper jump down a ladder, and Mayor scarpers. Buffy fights the four vampires while Ripper and Joyce rescue the babies. Then there’s a rumbling noise and then Lurconis, a
giant snake really awful piece of CGI that looks vaguely like a giant snake, appears, grabs one of the four vampires, and vanishes again.
Lor: I would add more about how awful it was, but then I remembered Reptile Boy and LOL.
K: This shit makes Reptile Boy look like an Oscar winning masterpiece, you guys.
Mr. Trick decides that, having stood back through most of the fight, it’s time for him to see what the Slayer’s got. But Ripper jumps in. He gets thrown into Lurconis’ offering pit thing, and the rumbling noise indicates that the terrible CGI is on its way back. Buffy jumps up, grabs a pipe which conveniently contains gas, and directs it towards a torch, creating a flame thrower. She turns it on Lurconis, who gets set on fire and vanishes into his hole, shrieking.
Joyce asks if they can go home now, and Buffy’s all “YES PLEASE I HAVE THE SATS TOMORROW”.
In the Mayor’s office, Mr. Trick is covering his arse. One less demon to pay tribute to is his explanation. The Mayor seems not keen about this idea. At the school, Snyder is back to his usual self. He orders Willow, Oz, Cordy and Xander to clean up the vandalism on school property, and points at the lockers, which have “KISS ROCKS” spraypainted across them. Willow, being her usual adorably clueless self, says “Kiss rocks? Why would anyone want to kiss…oh wait. I get it.” LOL.
Outside the school, Buffy and Giles discuss her SATs. She feels like nothing made sense on the maths part, and Giles says that if her scores are low, she can just take them again, which adds further proof to placing the SATs firmly in “Things I will never understand about America”. Buffy is understandably not thrilled about this. Joyce arrives, and Giles makes awkward small talk by noting the damage to the car. Joyce says that Buffy’s paying it back, to which Buffy replies ”Uh, hey, the way things were going, be glad that’s the worst that happened. At least I got to the two of you before you actually DID something,” before walking off to the car.
This leads to some “OH GOD DON’T MAKE EYE CONTACT” awkwardness from Joyce and Giles, and they disappear from the frame in opposite directions as the episode draws to a close.
K: Just wait until Buffy finds out…
Next time on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the rest of the gang find out that Angel’s back, and they’re none too pleased about it. Also, there’s a new Watcher in town. Find out more in BtVS S03 E07 – Revelations.