Previously: Joyce found out she had a brain tumour, and Riley started letting vampire trollops bite him.
Listening to Fear
Kirsti: After the previouslies, we’re at the hospital where Dawn’s eating the jelly (L: JELL-O.) off Joyce’s hospital tray with her fingers (EW). Joyce says she won’t be offended if the girls go out for real people food. Buffy poo-poos her, and I can’t help but notice that she’s wearing a hoodie and tracksuit pants, which is the 2000s version of the Overalls of Overall Sadness. Poor Buff.
With that, we segue magic over to the cemetery, where things are most definitely NOT under control. Xander and Giles get themselves punched repeatedly by some very tall lady vampires, while Willow fumbles for a stake and then gets thrown across the cemetery. Eventually, she manages to pick herself up and stake one from behind. Xander gets thrown around by the other one, and Giles goes to stake her, but she moves and he nearly gets Xander instead. The tall lady vamp holds them both down, conveniently allowing Willow to stake her as well. So question: did the Scoobies suddenly get much more adept at finding the heart or has staking vampires become less of a battle to get through their rib cage and more like popping a balloon?
Lorraine: While I was cheering Willow on hardcore, yeah. Bypassing muscle and bone is no sweat.
K: Seriously. Willow’s all proud of herself for staking two vampires, but Xander’s pissed about Riley not turning up. Giles is disappointed in Riley before wondering if he forgot. Cue a cut over to an abandoned building where a drug addict-y looking vampire girl is sucking on Riley’s arm as he looks…I think it’s meant to be desperate, but it just comes off as bored? IDK. Roll credits.
Lor: This just got very True Blood-y.
Sweeney: I’ve never seen that show because I hate Anna Paquin, but I also hate this whole stupid story, so this is officially added to my list of reasons to never watch that show.
K: I liked the first couple of seasons, but I gave up when it got even more insane than the books.
After the credits, we’re back in Joyce’s hospital room where Willow has turned up with a bag full of presents. She feels just like Santa, apparently, “except thinner and younger. And female. And, well, Jewish.” Her presents are as follows: a beer hat for Joyce, which Willow gets all embarrassed about when Joyce is all “…whut” over, a book about witchcraft for Dawn, and homework for Buffy, who sulks at her present until Willow hands her a yo-yo. (L: Shout-out for continuity!)
Willow then fills Buffy in on what they’re doing in history class, but in the middle of her spiel, Joyce stares off into the distance and then has a moment of intense crazy, angrily saying, “I’d rip it in half and stick it in bed with me!” The girls all wig out a little, then Joyce snaps back to normal and says in a tired sort of way that she’d like to take a rest. The girls head outside to the hall.
Dawn asks Willow what Joyce was talking about, and Buffy says that the doctor told her Joyce might say some crazy shit from time to time because of the tumor. They walk down the hall, and a man – the security guard who Glory mind-sucked in episode 5 – bumps into them. He crazies a little when he sees Dawn to remind us that crazy people can see through her monk-y (not monkey) disguise to the glowy ball of energy that she really is. Dawn freaks out and the girls pull her away. Security Guard Guy’s wife calms him down and keeps him moving, and Dawn asks if he’s got the same problem as Joyce. Ben appears out of nowhere to comment on the fact that the mental ward is overflowing, so they’re sending a bunch of people home, because BEST PLAN EVER.
Sweeney: We do this with our overcrowded, batshit prison system too. We’re big on the, “Meh. Too many. Go home.” policy.
K: There are many things I will never understand about America. I think that just added another one to the list.
That night, Willow and Tara are star gazing on the roof of a Contrivance U dorm. Willow points out a bunch of constellations, and Tara reveals that they never made sense to her (agreed) so she made up her own. She points out a few of hers, including “the big pineapple,” “short man looking uncomfortable,” and “moose getting a sponge bath.” It’s freaking adorable. She asks Willow to make one up, and just as she’s about to do so, a meteor shoots across the sky. The girls jump up just in time to see it crash into the ground in some woods not far away.
Lor: This just got very Smallville-y.
K: I…have never seen Smallville, so I can’t judge the accuracy of that statement.
Cut to a first person viewpoint from inside the meteorite. It cracks, and the camera jerks around accompanied by slithery noises to let us know that something’s sliming its way out of the meteorite. The camera pans up to ground level, and we see Security Guard Guy wandering in the woods alone, muttering to himself. Beastie Camera takes us up a tree, and then we see a giant cockroach-y looking thing fall down onto SGG’s back as he passes under the tree. Fade to black.
Lor: So, we shouldn’t send the mentally ill home to fend for themselves is the moral of the story.
Sweeney: An unexpected twist!
K: WHO KNEW?! After the Not Commercial Break, we’re back at the hospital. The Space Cockroach is crawling across the ceiling. In Joyce’s room, she’s hammering on the call button and freaking out that it’s not hooked up to anything. Buffy reassures her, and then the doctor walks in. Buffy says that they want to go home. The doctor says that it’s fine – they can see Joyce in the morning. But he’s missed the point. Joyce wants to go home too. After some desperation from Joyce, a little bit of sending Dawn out of the room, and some warnings from the doctor, he agrees. Joyce wants to leave immediately, but Buffy needs a crash course in medical care first. Out in the hall, the Space Cockroach hangs over Dawn as she reads.
Sweeney: I don’t know how I forgot about the Space Cockroach, except that I must have blocked out this mental image to spare myself actual trauma because looking at it now makes my skin crawl. BRB, vomiting.
K: I don’t blame you. It’s pretty gross.
Cut to the Scoobies in the woods. Riley apologises for not having turned up the previous night shortly before they come across a giant trench in the ground that must have been a total blast for the set department to put together. Riley approaches the meteorite, and Anya asks if it’s hot. He reaches towards it, and then she adds “Cause, uh, if there’s radiation you like could go all sterile,” which causes Xander to run away and Riley to pull away in horror. LOL. Anyway, Riley inspects the meteorite and realises that it’s hollow, leading to the following brilliant conversation:
Anya: So, uh, we’re all thinking the same thing, right?
Xander: Festive pinata? Delicious candy?
Willow: Something evil crashed to earth in this and then broke out and…slithered away to do badness.
Giles: In all fairness, we don’t really know about the slithered part.
Anya: Oh, no. I’m sure it frisked about like a fluffy lamb.
They decide to split up and see if they can find the beastie. A short way into the woods, Willow finds Security Guard Guy [SGG]. He’s dead, with no visible marks on him. Willow recognises him from the hospital, and then Riley shoves a pen into SGG’s mouth. The others are all “Dude, WTF??” but it comes out covered in slime. Stinky slime, apparently, from their reactions. Willow wants to call Buffy, but Tara says they can’t, because life stuff comes first. Giles suggests that they look around the woods some more, but the rest of the gang vote that they should move straight to research mode because outside is scary and gross, and research happens inside. It’s possible that everything after the word “mode” was my opinion rather than that of the Scoobies, but pff. Whatevs.
K: Riley hangs back, claiming he wants to look at the body some more. But what he really want to do is wait until the others have left, and then phone The Initiative and ask to speak to “the man at the desk.” But my favourite part is that he says “This is A… This is Riley Finn.” I know he was going to say “Agent Finn”, but it’s much more hilarious to imagine that Riley has been hanging out in Rosewood in his spare time, and is sending mysterious text messages to teenage girls.
Lor: He’s got to do something in his spare time.
Sweeney: A+ on that epic crossover magic, Kirsti. A+ forever. Thank you for this new opportunity for us to confuse single-series readers.
K: YOU’RE WELCOME. And an A+ to Lor on pointing out that Riley has a shit ton of spare time and nothing to fill it with.
We head to the psych ward at the hospital, where a patient is begging a nurse not to leave. She ignores him and does, and we hear scurrying noises from the Space Cockroach. It climbs up on top of his bed, and barfs clear slime all over his face as the nurse sits outside eating chocolate. Elsewhere in the hospital, the doctor is signing the paperwork to release Joyce. He hands Buffy a bunch of information and medications, and then Joyce has another moment of crazy. On the ceiling down the hall, the Space Cockroach watches them as Joyce comes back to reality and they head for the exit.
Back at the Summers’ house, Joyce is thrilled to be home right up until the point where Buffy turns the lights on. It hurts her eyes, so Buffy tells Dawn to turn off all the lights downstairs
to allow the Space Cockroach maximum stealth opportunities while she gets Joyce settled upstairs. Back at the meteorite, Riley watches as a helicopter lands. A group of black clad soldiers jump out, and the leader – Major Ellis – introduces himself to Riley, who fills him in on the details. Graham is among the soldiers, and makes a joke about how this seems like the kind of gig Riley would usually call Buffy about. It goes down about as well as you’d expect. Riley hands a vial of slime to Major Ellis, and informs him that it’s an extraterrestrial, not a subterrestrial. The soldiers go to track it using a magical gizmo, but Riley informs them it won’t work. He suggests tracking its residual radiation instead, and the soldiers break out the Geiger counters.
Cut back to the Summers’ house. Buffy and Dawn are watching TV while we’re back to seeing everything through Space Cockroach Camera. We see Joyce wander down the stairs in a daze, and head to the kitchen. We cut to Buffy and Dawn, and hear dishes crashing. The girls rush to the kitchen, where Joyce is staring into the fridge. Something’s burning on the stove, and when Buffy asks Joyce what she’s doing, she says that she was making breakfast. Followed by, “And YOU shouldn’t eat any more. You’re disgustingly fat.” Buffy looks hurt, understandably, before Joyce snaps back to reality again. The girls lead her back to bed, but as they pass through the kitchen, we see that the basement door is ajar and there’s something moving around down there.
Upstairs, Buffy gives Joyce a sleeping pill and tucks her into bed. Dawn strokes Joyce’s forehead, and Joyce freaks out, calling Dawn a “thing” and “a shadow.” Dawn runs off to her room as Buffy calms Joyce down. Buffy heads into Dawn’s room to reassure her that it was the tumour, but Dawn says it’s not just Joyce – there’ve been a whole bunch of people saying stuff like that to her. She wants to know what’s wrong with her, and Buffy says that it’s not her, it’s the crazy people, and she should just ignore them. OKAY, BUFF. You just keep on giving that terrible advice that parents have been giving for years – “Ignore them and they’ll go away.” Sigh.
Lor: We had this whole “withholding information” conversation in the comments of the last post. This is another example of that, but to be fair, the whole, “you aren’t a real person” conversation is something I would try to avoid at all costs.
Sweeney: Yeah, this definitely falls under the very short list of things where withholding information is justified. Also, Dawn has a nice little coming of age arc. Plenty of kids her age feel invisible, so to be singled out as “not real” is an interesting way to play out all the overwhelming feels that accompany being 14. You would have to pay me lots and lots of monies to go back to the epic feels of being 14.
K: Agreed. 14 was the worst. I seem to remember spending an awful lot of time crying over absolutely nothing.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Scoobies are over at the Contrivance U Library.
Xander: “I still don’t see why we had to come here to get info about a killer snot monster.”
Giles: “Because it’s a killer snot monster from outer space. [pause] I did not say that…”
Oh, Giles. You’re the best. Tara and Anya appear to say that they’ve been checking periodicals, and there’ve not been any other falling meteors in the past week. Because, you know, periodicals about falling meteors are published on a daily basis and are sent to university libraries immediately, and catalogued and put on the shelves STRAIGHT AWAY. Totally plausible. Yup. Not at all weird. Willow, meanwhile, has been doing research online. She’s found reports that the Tunguska blast was caused by a hollow meteorite, and I have two problems with this: 1. She says the Tunguska blast happened in 1917, but it was actually 1908, and 2. Tunguska always reminds me of that whole stupid black oil plot line in The X-Files, and that makes me cranky. ANYWAY. Willow’s found similar events going all the way back to the Queller impact in twelfth century Iceland.
Tara questions the name of the impact, and that causes Xander to join the dots to something he just read in a book called “Meteors and You!” – “Primitive people used to believe that the moon was a cause of insanity. Sometimes they would pray to the moon to send a special meteor to fix the problem the moon had caused. These meteors were expected to *quell* the madmen.” That, combined with SGG having been a mental patient, have Willow doing some more historical research. She finds out that in medieval times, there were plagues of crazy people. And that there’s a meteor strike coinciding with the end of each one. Tara wonders who summoned the Space Cockroach, and everyone’s money is on Glory. Willow wants to call Buffy, except that they can’t. Giles suggests they call Riley instead.
Lor: Riley is only being considered useful since Buffy isn’t around. Sucks for Riley.
K: True dat. Willow calls Riley and fills him in. He’s down with their theory on account of he and the soldiers are at the hospital, and the entire ward of mental patients is dead. Willow’s all “So I saw Joyce earlier and she was a little…insane. Maybe go check on her to make sure she didn’t get drowned in slime,” but Riley says that Ben told him she’d been released earlier that day. Because apparently Ben has no concept of patient confidentiality whatsoever and just gives out information to anyone! (Yes, I’m sure he’s seen Riley there and whatever, Ben’s still the worst doctor ever.) Riley thinks he’s got the Space Cockroach trapped in the air ducts, and then hangs up on Willow as she’s trying to suggest that they come help him kill it.
Back at the Summers’ residence, Joyce is having a buckets o’ crazy rant in bed, staring at the ceiling. Cut to Dawn’s room. We can hear Joyce’s rantings through the wall as Dawn gets more and more frustrated and upset about hearing it. She pushes the pillow into her ears, but can still hear her mother. Downstairs, Buffy turns on the radio to some poppy Latin music and starts washing the dishes. She’s clearly trying not to cry. A moment later, she sobs, then tries to pull herself together. It doesn’t work, and she breaks down completely.
Back upstairs, Joyce is still talking to the ceiling, saying that she doesn’t like it staring at her. The camera pulls back to show the Space Cockroach on the ceiling looking down at Joyce. It makes a squeaky noise, and we fade to black.
Lor: Not as fantastic as the Creepy Cobra last episode, but still, pretty Terrible Effects Fantastic.
Sweeney: Terrible Effect is terrible, and still it induces my gag reflex about equally as much as my LOLreflex.
K: I think it’s less Terrible Effects-y and more “person in an awful costume a la Werewolf Oz” territory. Either way, it’s really terrible. After the Not Commercial Break, we’re back at the hospital. Graham’s tracked the Space Cockroach’s residual radiation to the edge of the car park, and Riley deduces that it hitched a ride under a car. Major Ellis is all “Wow, must suck for the mental patient who accidentally took that home!” and Riley gets panic face on account of JOYCE.
Lor: Is it weird that Joyce is being lumped in together with the mental patients? It’s kinds of weird.
Sweeney: Very weird. Lots of hasty story leaps were taken to get us to Riley deducing that Joyce is the mental patient.
K: Agreed. Back in Joyce’s room, the Space Cockroach drops down on top of her and pukes slime onto her face. Dawn hears it, and comes into the room. When she sees the Space Cockroach, she grabs a coat rack and attacks, knocking the Space Cockroach to the floor. (S: Go Dawny!) Joyce pulls the now hardening slime off her face as Dawn looks around in horror for the Space Cockroach. It jumps up across the bed and runs at her. She screams and sprints out of the room and down the hall to the bathroom, the Space Cockroach following. She calls for Buffy, but Buffy’s still crying and can’t hear anything over the water and the Latin music. Dawn runs back into Joyce’s room – the layout of the Summers house is kind of weird. Every bedroom has a door to the hall and at least one other room, either the bathroom or another bedroom – and starts barricading doors.
Downstairs, a still oblivious Buffy splashes water on her face, then reaches for a hand towel. Upstairs, Dawn opens the door to the hall, and screams her sister’s name as loud as she can before slamming the door again.
Lor: Can we add Michelle Trachtenberg screaming to our drinking game? I know that might be calling for alcohol poisoning, but I feel like I need a shot to recover from it anyways.
Sweeney: A fair suggestion. After Charisma Carpenter left, Buffy needed a new resident screamer.
K: A+. Cordy’s absence definitely left a gaping hole of screaming on the drinking game board, and Dawny does an AWFUL lot of screaming in the next few years.
Buffy sprints upstairs, and Dawn fills her in. Buffy tells them to stay in Joyce’s bedroom, and shuts the door. As she does, the Space Cockroach drops onto her back. There’s a brief tussle, and they roll down the stairs. The Space Cockroach slithers away as Buffy’s shaking off the confusion. Upstairs, Joyce comforts a terrified Dawn.
Buffy walks through the darkened house, searching for the Space Cockroach. She grabs the biggest knife in the kitchen, and puts her SRS BSNSS Slayer face on. She hears a noise and then the basement door bursts open. It’s Spike. Buffy’s all “DUDE, WTF?” and he admits that he’s been lurking down there stealing stuff. Namely, pictures of Buffy. She furthers her “WTF??” but lucky for him, the Space Cockroach attacks him and knocks him to the ground.
Lor: Spike gets lucky a lot. Spike lurking in your basement < Space Cockroach on a creepy scale, but if this were a normal night? Spike would be SOL.
K: Truth. Buffy stands there, trying to work out if she can attack it with her giant knife, but Spike’s flailing feet knock the knife from her hand. The Space Cockroach turns and sees her, and attacks her instead. She throws it off, and Spike tosses her the knife. The Space Cockroach knocks her to the ground again, and gets all up in her face. She stabs it a bunch of times until it stops squealing, then rolls its dead body off to one side. Spike helps her up just as Riley and the soldiers burst in.
Riley asks Buffy if she’s okay, but she ignores him and sprints upstairs to check on Joyce and Dawn. Spike looks disgustedly at Riley and says, “You just missed a real nice time.” Riley looks down to see the dead Space Cockroach on the floor. Upstairs, Buffy enternounces that she’s killed the Space Cockroach, and then hugs her family, telling them that everything’s going to be okay.
Over at the hospital, Ben’s heading to his car. He gets in to find Glory’s Flattery Demon sitting in the backseat. Flattery Demon wants to know WTF Ben was doing, summoning the Space Cockroach. “I’m cleaning up Glory’s mess. Just like I’ve done my whole damn life,” he replies. (L: DUN DUN DUN. That’s why he’s been on my screen…) (YUP) He kicks the Flattery Demon out of his car, and drives off.
Inside the hospital the next day, Joyce tells Buffy that she needs to ask her something. Something potentially crazy. “[Dawn]‘s not mine. Is she?” she asks. Buffy’s taken aback, but confirms that no, Dawn’s not really Joyce’s daughter. “She does belong to us, though?” Buffy agrees.
Sweeney: So many of Buffy’s feels as she watched Dawn/Joyce in the last few episodes came rushing back when Joyce says that Dawn is as dear to the world as Buffy is to her.
K: Joyce makes her promise to take care of Dawn if anything happens to her, and Buffy gets teary. They hug, and we cut to Joyce being wheeled away on a gurney as Buffy, Dawn and all the Scoobies watch. Fade to black.
Lor: That’s a Buffy spin on the “if anything happens to me” talk, isn’t it? Plus, I can’t tell you how much I loved, “she belongs to us.”
Sweeney: +1. SO MUCH.
K: I never quite know how to feel about this episode. Because we get so much significant plot development – Riley getting in contact with the Initiative again, Joyce learning that Dawn’s not her daughter, Buffy having to play the role of the grown up and take care of her family, Ben somehow being involved with the whole Glory thing – but it’s countered with a cockroach from outer space that kills mental patients by puking slime onto their faces, you know? In short, IDK…
Lor: It’ll be a middle of the pack episode, for sure. These past two episodes have been doing some serious leg work for the season, and have perhaps suffered for that (or for their silly A plots). All said and done, I think they still are solid episodes because we care so much about what’s happening. Especially for a first time watcher, these revelations are great.
I think there are moments when this was also great about showing how scary dealing with illness is (Joyce’s “because of my brain tumor” outburst), but it’s such a great big topic, that it was bound to be mostly lost in an episode with a Space Cockroach. Your IDK is valid, K.
Sweeney: Agreed. At first I thought I blocked out Space Cockroach because of gross, but it was actually because of fail; it’s definitely the weakest link in the episode and worthy of that IDK response. I like what you said, too, about the heavy lifting. Other episodes that are amazing to re-watch are good mostly because they don’t have the quick movement burden of an episode like this. So, while I might be #meh on this episode, later things get the benefit of the groundwork it lays. And that final Joyce/Buffy conversation will always be a solid suckerpunch to the feels.
K: So, meeting at the Table of Meh all around? Great. I’ll bring the booze to help us get over that final conversation.
Next time on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The outcome of Joyce’s surgery, and Spike discovers what Riley’s been up to, leading to an ultimatum. Find out more in S05 E10 – Into the Woods.