Previously: The Watchers Council gave Buffy the worst birthday ever. Well, it would have been the worst birthday ever for anybody but Buffy who only has terrible, terrible birthdays. Then they fired Giles.
Sweeney: We open with some mega weird demons with blueish skin and red eyes underground and it’s really foggy and hard to see, especially with low res video.
K: It’s kind of like when Harry Potter is walking around under his invisibility cloak and everything is filmed through a layer of fabric…
Sweeney: That’s a higher compliment than the BtVS team deserves, but yeah, sort of.
Buffy and Faith are there but not really fighting, as are Giles and Willow, who is doing witchy stuff with candles. Eventually, Buffy goes in for the tackle our slayers slice up our bad guys with swords. They talk about how handy Willow was with her clouding spell, as an explanation for why it was foggy and then suddenly it was not. Is it bad that this blog has caused me to assume sloppy acts of contrivance are everywhere and I often forget to question it? Answer: yes, because I need to question it in order to write this blog. Oops.
K: Faith also uses the phrase “wicked rowdy”, to back up the fact that she’s meant to be from Boston. LOL, OKAY.
Sweeney: Anywho, eventually Xander emerges from under a pile of stuff and he gets lectured on how he’s likely to die soon from trying to get into the fray and he should stop that. Personally, I’m on team Let Him Die, but they are his friends, so it seems they disagree.
Sweeney: Xander is offended by this, and I am just groaning because it’s how the show let’s us know that we’re in for a whole lot of Xander. A round of drinks on me a the Table of Ugh?
K: YES PLEASE. Make mine a double.
Lorraine: Yeah, I’ll be there too, but by the looks of things probably for way different reasons than you two. There is a whole lot of out of character contrivance going on in this episode. Make mine a double, but not Kirsti’s because she gets sleepy after one drink. I’m guessing this is also true for imaginary, Internet booze.
Sweeney: Almost certainly, and yes, this episode is so loaded with contrivance it’s ridiculous, even for Sunnydale.
The girls discuss demon torching, for which Willow has brought marshmallows, because she’s hilarious and adorable. Everyone looks at her funny for this and her response drives home why she’s awesome:
Giles, unsurprisingly, just wants to get back to Wiggins Library to go into research mode to find out what the demons were and whether they can expect more of them. Buffy hopes not, but Xander throws in a “Bring them on!” in an effort to save his manpride after feeling cut down by the girls. There’s a really great explanation of Xander’s masculinity issues and this whole scenario goes nicely with it, but sorry I’m not sorry for my inability to feel bad for him for this. Anyway, Giles adds a comment in support of keeping Xander out of future fights and we roll credits.
After credits, we do more setup for all the masculinity problems we are supposedly exploring in this issue as two guys throw a football around at school. Xander jumps up and down trying to get them to toss it to him. They are annoyed and try to ignore him, but eventually they toss it to him and he fails to catch it. It lands in the lunch/lap of a weird husky-voiced murdery guy sitting by himself. Xander tries to joke with the guy but Murdery Shadow Lurker is not having that and grumbles about how he’ll get some buddies together and murder Xander’s face off. Or something like that.
K: It’s possible that I cheered “DO IT!! DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!!!!”
Lor: I mostly laugh because his name is O’Toole. IT HAS TOOL RIGHT IN HIS NAME.
Sweeney: He then has to go encounter Cordelia and UGH, you guys, I have mostly blocked this episode from my memory so I don’t actually remember what happens but I know it’s a whole lot of Xander problems and while I never thought this day would come, I think I’m actually Team Heartless Cow today. I don’t even know who I am anymore.
K: Team Heartless Cow welcomes you with open arms. We have booze here. And chocolate.
Sweeney: But really, I just can’t give a shit about Xander’s problems, mostly because of how self-inflicted they tend to be. Cordelia cuts him down to size a little more in very Cordelia fashion and assures Xander that he could not take the Murdery Shadow Lurker and that MSL would definitely murder Xander’s face off. Then she basically lays out the feels Xander will have to work through this episode:
Unlike all those other creatures that you’ve come face to face with, [MSL] actually noticed you were there . . . It must be really hard when all your friends have, like, superpowers – slayer, werewolf, witches, vampires – and you’re like this little nothing.
He tries to insist that he an integral part of the group, but she snaps that he’s useless – he’s The Zeppo! Hey-o episode title! Cordelia walks off and says, entirely to herself, that there was no part of that (“that” being cutting down her cheating ex-boyfriend) that wasn’t fun.
Lorraine: Here’s where I jump in and say that none of the UGH so far I’ve really placed on Xander. No, I don’t like the character, but I more blame the contrivance they are building up around him. It’s a shame, because this is a valid point Cordelia brings up and it would’ve be amazing to truly go into Xander’s “normalness.” Why? Because as much as I don’t like the character as a person, the fact that Xander has nothing supernatural going for him, but consistently jumps in to helps his friends makes him brave and awesome, not a loser.
This episode makes him a loser.
Also, after her amazing Cordelia moments last episode, this is another a million steps back for her.
Sweeney: I have nothing to add to that except to say that it’s all well stated. My “UGH” is less because of anything Xander has said or done and more my general dislike and that whole rule that once you dislike someone even their breathing is annoying. That said, I agree times infinity that the real problem is all the contrivance.
Also, while this episode involves Cordelia taking a bunch of steps back, I’m not sure I’d say that just yet. One of these comments is kind of fair game, given their history. It’s the nine million more digs she takes at him that make it excessive.
We cut from that to Xander talking to Oz about the definition of cool and finding cool and who gets to decide cool and ugh, high schoolers are the worst. I’d really rather go back to analyzing high school feels through the lens of outlandish demon problems. Right on cue, Oz tells Xander that he’s over thinking it and he’s just experiencing identity problems, which are not – SEGUE MAGIC: the end of the world, Giles finishes.
Lor: The segue magics in this episode are THE WORST. Each come with a side of cheese or perhaps a brick in the face.
Sweeney: Buffy asks if these crazy demons can actually do that. As it turns out, there is an apocalypse cult dedicated to bringing about the end of the world. To remind us of this cult’s full-moon-y timing, Oz walks in to lock himself into the cage. The doomsday cult is in Sunnydale to, surprise surprise, open the Hellmouth.
K: I honestly don’t know why anyone in Sunnydale is surprised by this any more. I mean, COME ON, Y’ALL.
Lor: Contrivance. There is a demon cult determined to bring the end of the world, and Giles didn’t know about them. YEAH HOKAY.
Sweeney: Later, Buffy and Willow discuss this new impending doom. Willow asks what happens if they succeed and when Buffy asks if she remembers the thing that almost came out the last time, to which Willow responds that all of her non-academic-failure related nightmares are about that. I love her. I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve gushed about how much I love Willow. Anyway, for realsies world destruction is coming.
K: I’m gonna take a moment to discuss Buffy’s hair because I’m pretty sure she styled it with an iron. An actual iron, not a hair straightener. And then crimped it a little bit, for that added touch of sadness.
Sweeney: Meanwhile, we have to keep jumping out to Xander’s impossibly stupid story. He appears beyond the girls honking the horn on an incredibly nice convertible classic car. Based on the fact that he doesn’t appear to have a job and we know his family isn’t mega rich, I call bullshit on his being able to acquire said car.
K: He acquired said car from his uncle, who’s currently in prison. But I still call bullshit on account of I would never ever give a classic car that nice to a teenage boy.
Sweeney: Oops. I should pay more attention. Except, not because we still agreed to call bullshit, so it’s whatever.
He babbles about how this is going to make him cool, and Buffy isn’t all that excited due to the impending doom. Xander offers to help, and we segue magic to a donut shop, because that’s just the sort of bullshit his little plot requires.
Lor: BULLSHIT. SINCE WHEN? Since when do they NOT include Xander in research and demon hunting, huh? SINCE THIS STUPID ASS EPISODE.
Equally as important to his uninteresting plot is Cordelia’s presence at all his tragic loser scenes. She snarks about how expendable he is and how the shiny new car does not make a new Xander. She’s exceptionally awful in this episode, which is probably the least contrivancey mechanism they use to sledgehammer home Xander’s Man Woes. As Xander leaves the donut shop, still bickering with Cordelia, a pretty blonde starts asking him questions about the car, which allows him to give Cordelia a neener-neener-neener look. He and the blonde drive off.
Cut to them at The Bronze and Contrivance Blonde can’t stop talking about cars. As we learned in the previous scene, Xander doesn’t actually know much of anything about his shiny new car, let alone care enough to have an intense car chat. Xander and I have this in common. Xander sees Angel walk into The Bronze and he’s all, “OH HEY, BUDDY! PAL! WAZZUP!” in order to save him self from this conversation he gives zero fucks about. Angel’s got a “DAFUQ?” look on his face, due to Xander having hated Angel for the entire time they have known each other. Angel’s looking for Buffy and they have a brief little chat about the impending doom.
Lor: BULLSHIT: Wouldn’t Angel would’ve be the first person Buffy would’ve called if the Hellmouth was about to open?
Sweeney: In theory, but all! the! contrivance! makes this so much easier. -_-
Xander tells Angel that Buffy is at the library and offers to go there with him, but Angel tells Xander he should stay out of harm’s way. After Angel leaves, Contrivance Blonde wants to go for another drive, because she’s the most one dimensional character in the history of ever. They go outside and Xander is grumbling about how helpful he has been in the past and as he goes to drive off, he hits the car parked in front of him.
K: Like I said, don’t give a classic car to a teenage boy.
Sweeney: Naturally, Murdery Shadow Lurker gets out of the car and does some quality growling. Christian Grey would be proud. Back at the Wiggins Library, Willow feels that Werewolf Oz is extra cranky on this particular night. She theorizes something about dogs barking when earthquakes are coming. The research isn’t going well and Giles is majorly distracted. He’s going off somewhere, but he goes to grab a donut first, but zomg! the jellies are all gone and they have a goofy random conversation about how Giles is always the one advocating for jellies. I only bring this up because I watched this week’s How I Met Your Mother right before writing this post and there was also a comment on the rudeness of not saving jelly donuts for others. Television would have me believe that one should just buy boxes of jelly donuts, but fuck all these television characters because I don’t even like jelly donuts. Sorry, this was a tangent.
Lor: One I support. I’m not a fan of jelly doughnuts.
K: This just goes to show that you’ve never had a hot jam doughnut rolled in sugar. Because it kicks the butt of every other doughnut ever.
Sweeney: Anyway, while everything I just said was useless, the jelly donut chat actually was relevant to the Xander Contrivance Plot. Giles suggests sending Xander for another donut run and Buffy’s not having it because she wants Xander out of this particular demon investigation because he nearly got killed before.
Lor: BULLSHIT. SINCE WHEN? Xander and Willow and Buffy and Faith and Giles and EVERYONE ARE NEARLY KILLED ALL THE TIME. THEY STILL ALL GO BACK.
Back at The Bronze he is about to be killed by MSL. Xander offers to pay for the damages on MSL’s car but MSL immediately pulls out a giant knife because he’s a psychopath. He named his knife, bee-tee-dubs. She’s called Katie. “How very serial killer of you,” Xander snarks.
MSL says some nonsense about how what makes them different isn’t the fact that MSL is a probable serial killer with a knife, but who has the least fear. He gives the knife to Xander and tells Xander to come at him, and then a cop appears. Xander doesn’t rat out MSL, even though the cop knows MSL is a trouble-maker, by which I mean future mass murderer. Xander doesn’t rat our MSL, however, and the cop goes away. MSL decides that this makes Xander pretty cool and now he wants to make him his BFF, which understandably makes Xander a bit antsy.
K: It certainly made me question MSL’s sanity.
Sweeney: MSL says that the car Xander hit wasn’t even his, so the two of them and the Contrivance Blonde get into Xander’s car and drive off. They go hang out at the cemetery and MSL performs some cray weird ritual over a grave that involves chanting and cutting his finger with his giant creepy knife, Katie. When he finishes the ritual, there is a pause before a big dead jock dude in a Sunnydale letter jacket crawls out of the grave. Zombie Jock and MSL exchange bro greetings. Contrivance Blonde screams and runs off. MSL introduces Zombie Jock to Xander as their wheel man and then they go around the cemetery raising their other dead bros.
K: My favourite part of this scene? Zombie Jock’s biggest concern is whether MSL has been taping Walker, Texas Ranger for him while he’s been dead. Ain’t nothin’ coming between a boy and his Chuck Norris.
Sweeney: Elsewhere, Giles is performing a weird ritual involving a candle, subtitles, and a really terrible special effect cloud. The special effect cloud tells Giles to leave it the fuck alone and then Xander appears and asks if they need any help, but that’s a big no. Giles has the feeling that there’s something different about this apocalypse - something in the air. Xander thinks it’s Zombie Jock. LOL. Corpse humor. I love how each apocalypse is a special snowflake and, you know, even more apocalypsey than the last one. Anyway, Giles says that they’ll all be called upon to fight when “it” happens, because we’re too busy with Xander’s story to really flesh out this special snowflake apocalypse. He says he’s optimistic that they might have a few weeks to prepare for it and then runs off. Cut to Willy saying, “Tonight,” to Buffy. (L: BRICK.) He’s cut up and his bar was destroyed. The ambiguous IT will happen by sunrise, he says. They destroyed the bar because they were looking for Angel and Buffy too, because they’re the most likely candidates for stopping the ambiguous it.
Willy advises her and Angel to go somewhere quiet together and think about how they want to spend their last night on earth. BOW CHICKA.
K: Team Heartless Cow says bow chicka EW.
Sweeney: Glad to have this confirmation of my true team. All this contrivance had me terribly confused.
Xander Wheel Man Harris is driving his car full of Frat Zombies around Sunnydale and they really want beers and also to go beat up people they didn’t like when they were alive. Xander stops at a hardware store, which they smash open. Xander realizes that he’s now using his sweet ride to assist criminal activity. He’s not fan of that because he’s a tool but not, you know, a criminal. He spots Willow and tries to talk to her, but she won’t tell him anything and this is probably the first time that I genuinely feel bad for him because why the fuck won’t anybody tell him anything?
Lor: BECAUSE OF BULLSHIT. I’ve been trying to tell you.
Sweeney: I get wanting to protect him from his own catastrophic uselessness, but yes, the bullshit factor in this episode has officially set some sort of record. It only continues to get worse from there. Willow hugs him and runs off and just as Xander resolves to force his way into the loop, MSL and the Frat Zombies return. They say it’s clear that he doesn’t feel like part of the group because he hasn’t been initiated. Initiation, of course, is dying. MSL pulls out Katie. Xander points out that MSL isn’t dead, but he pulls up his shirt and reveals bullet wounds from a drive-by. He died three weeks ago, but it turns out that he was raised within ten minutes of dying, which is why he lacks the rotten flesh of the rest of the Frat Zombies. Just as they’re about to kill him, Xander distracts them long enough to run away. They chase him and he jumps in the car and drives off, much to the dismay of the Frat Zombies.
Elsewhere, Faith is fighting another one of the crazy demons from the beginning of the episode. Xander runs into it with his car, which doesn’t kill it, but buys Faith time to hop into the car so they can drive off. They go to her motel to hide out. She has Xander help her fix her dislocated shoulder and all the touching reminds Faith that she just had an intense fight without a kill which is like Slayer blue balls or something. Fortunately, she’s got Xander here, so she can solve that problem. I really don’t want to spend any more time than I have to discussing the EW that is Faith taking Xander’s virginity.
K: As I said to the girls in an email earlier today, the one redeeming factor is that all we have to see is the reflection of it on the screen of Faith’s crappy motel TV. I also feel like this is an appropriate time to break out this gif again:
Sweeney: I always approve of that gif.
The fact that it was Xander’s first time is probably important to remember so that we can appreciate how rough it is when Faith kicks him out as soon as it’s over, apparently before he even has a chance to put his clothes on, because he leaves wrapped up in a towel.
Back at Wiggins library, Werewolf Oz is being relocated and he has to be shot with the tranquilizer gun by Willow and Giles, which is a major bummer for Willow. Xander gets into his car and realizes that the bags the Frat Zombies put in his car (they properly bagged their stolen goods?) were filled with kerosene and he says, “Hey! They’re not making any cakes!” as if this is the first time this thought occurred to him. REALLY XANDER? Fortunately, he recovers from this epic stupid long enough to realize that it’s time to go into Investigate This Problem mode.
K: Course, then this happens:
Sweeney: I mean he just lost his virginity. To a megahot vampire slayer. Being a tad distracted seems fair to me.
He goes back to the hardware store but that’s not helpful, so he decides Buffy will know what to do. “I don’t know what to do!” shouts Buffy, to Angel, in the Brooding Bungalow as a whole orchestra of sadness plays in the background. (Lor: CHEESE.) This wholly undeveloped apocalypse plot has a weirdly soap opera feel, especially when juxtaposed against Xander’s antics. They go back and forth about how Angel will face the ambiguous evil and buy them enough time for Willow’s spell to work, but Buffy doesn’t want to watch him die again. To be fair, I think it’s assumed that she wouldn’t actually be watching said death.
K: Team Heartless Cow says “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEMO DRAMZ!!!!”
Sweeney: It is, but I’ll also pull one of Lor’s BULLSHIT cards on the absurdity of the scene.
Their big intense fight about how they’re in love and Angel can’t die and whatever is interrupted by Xander showing up to ask for help. He quickly decides it’s a bad time, but, really Xander, zombies with bombs probably counts as an interruption-worthy dilemma. Back at Wiggins, Giles and Willow are doing a crazy spell with black dust all over the place and candles and just, you know, lots of witch props to make sure that we get that this is a way serious apocalypse. Cut to the Zombie Frat assembling a bomb. Xander is driving around and his new plan is to go to Giles. He encounters the Zombie Frat, who think that their wheels have come for them, but Xander doesn’t stop. One of them manages to grab onto the car and Xander uses this opportunity to interrogate him. He learns that the bomb is in the boiler room of the high school, but Frat Zombie’s head gets knocked off by a mailbox before Xander learns how to disable it.
Back in the library, the rest of the gang stands around as lightning effects go off and the giant snakey thing starts to emerge from the middle of the floor. Standing around watching the apocalypse has never really been their thing, especially not when they’re together, making this the millionth “BECAUSE OF REASONS” in this ridiculously contrived episode. Resume Scooby Doo-esque music as the Frat Zombies chase Xander through the high school. One stops long enough to look into the window of Wiggins Library and observe the gnarly thing coming out of the Hellmouth. They split up to find Xander, allowing his fights to occur one-on-one.
K: So kind of them to make things easy on him.
Sweeney: Xander tries to do the Buffy banter pre-battle quip thing, but it just buys the low-fight zombies a chance to run off. Then they’re both being chased back by the major demons. This episode is super campy which I would normally love, but I can’t appreciate because of all the Xander. Xander goes into the boiler room (K: Which, I want to point out, is in the Basement of Don’t Go In There. How is it possible that Xander’s the only human to ever escape it alive?!) and tries to figure out what to do with the bomb. MSL shows up and fighting ensues. Xander points out that the clock is ticking which is likely to kill them both and uses it to callback to the fear comment earlier. Xander points out that explosion dead is a very different thing than the Frat Zombie dead he’s been up to lately. It’s an opportunity for Xander to be very calm and collected in the face of actual danger, to show us that he’s really awesome or something. I don’t care; I’m over it.
Just before the clock blows, MSL disables the bomb. Xander walks off and tells MSL to GTFO. Murdery Shadow Lurker starts to say something threatening, but when he opens a door and out pops and untranquilized Werewolf Oz to remurder his face off.
Lor: I can’t imagine three week old dead flesh tastes very good. Ew.
Sweeney: The next day there is a lot of really serious, ominous music, as Willow talks about how traumatized she is. Willow, Buffy, Giles, and Oz are sitting around a table having a mini group grief counseling session. The three that weren’t werewolves last night are covered in cuts and bruises. Willow adds that no one will ever know how close it got. Just then, Xander walks up and Willow tells him he’s lucky he wasn’t at school last night. He just says something about preferring the quiet life, and asks if anyone wants a snack, which they do not, due to their PTSD. Oz is “oddly full today.” LOL. Ew.
Xander walks off, full of his major personal growth or whatever. Just to drive home that not gloating about his Frat Zombie episode is a sign of how he’s a much better person now, he encounters Cordelia. She tries to belittle him some more, but he doesn’t take the bait. He just gives her a funny look, laughs, and walks away, with his triumphant I’m-a-better-person-now-that-I’ve-saved-the-world-with-my-words music in the background. Meh.
Lor: Yeah, this sucked, and sorry, but it wasn’t because of Xander. Everyone acted out of character for not including him. The apocalypse stuff was not the kind of thing you stick in the background in order to prop up a Zombie Frat story. It wasn’t campy enough to be hilarious but it wasn’t serious enough to be a true feels reflection. Plus, I love how “I was a soldier once and I have soldier things in my head” is only used for Xander when there aren’t contrivance holes to dig.
K: When I was trying to find pictures for this episode, I actually discovered a couple of people who refer to this as their favourite episode. I hope for the sake of all concerned that I never have to meet these people. Because UGH. Speaking of Team UGH, who’s for another round?
Sweeney: I NOTICED THAT TOO. WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? There is very little to appreciate here. I’m glad it’s over. Drinks for everyone.
Next time on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The new watcher comes to town. Guess how Buffy and Faith feel about that? Just guess. Or you can find out in BtVS S03 E14 – Bad Girls