Sunday, 12 June 2011

Buffy 3.18 'Earshot'

Short episode promo

WRITER: Jane Espenson
DIRECTOR: Regis Kimble


Buffy is out slaying when in the midst of battle with a pair of demons one of them scratches her hand right before it feels the business end of Mr Pointy. Its demon buddy escapes leaving Buff with a really itchy hand. As it turns out Buffy was scratched by a demon that can pass on one of its traits – the so-called Aspect of the Demon. Hearing this from Giles, Buffy starts worrying that she is gonna grow horns or, as Willow points out, if it was a boy demon something more, er, boyish! Buffy quickly discovers that her aspect gained is the ability to hear what everyone around her is thinking. At first this is exciting and fun but it soon becomes painful and debilitating and will lead to eventual insanity unless Giles, Angel and the gang can find a cure. To make matters worse Buffy heard the thoughts of someone at school planning a massacre at Sunnydale High. So the race is on to save Buff from insanity and to identify and stop a potential mass killer.


Nobody in their right mind would want to be able to know others inner most thoughts. However this episode by the great Jane Espenson tells us that if we could then we’d discover that everyone else is in just as much pain and is just as insecure and messed up as we are. That people ignore others pain is because they are far too busy dealing with their own pain. Of course this is all a bit touchy feely and perhaps over dramatic but it just tells us to not think that other seemingly well adjusted and happy people don’t have their own major issues to deal with. Sure, some more than others. But in the end we’re all human and we all hurt. It’s as simple as that.


An unknown (‘til the very end) potential killer.


The concept. It’s a simple and brilliant concept. What would we do and how would life be if we could hear everyone’s inner most thoughts? Sounds fab and really useful. But there would also be a terrible price to pay. Would we really want to know what everyone really thought of us?

The great Jane Espenson ™. This is one of Jane’s best scripts and is typically brilliant work from the lady. Earshot balances smart, tender, thoughtful musings on identity, loneliness and pain with sly social satire and some big laugh out loud comedy.

It’s a mystery. The identity of the potential mass killer is kept secret right to the very end with lots of red herrings thrown in. Early on Xander accidentally identifies the real culprit in a throwaway gag that nobody takes notice of. See? The Xan-man often speaks unwitting truth in jest.

Sarah Michelle Gellar. SMG does a bang up job in this episode. She goes from nervous worry while waiting for her Aspect of the Demon, to gleeful excitement when she realises all the possibilities of her new ‘gift’, to caring thoughtfulness when dealing with a deeply troubled student. And her comedy instincts are great too – witness her hearing the thoughts of boys lusting after her and see how she changes her stance while subtly preening herself. Most amusing.

The funny. Being a Jane Espenson episode Earshot is very, very funny. I totally forgot about the classic scene in the library as Buffy tells her friends about her being able to hear all their thoughts. Of course almost everything Xander thinks about is sex, causing Buffy to look at him with disgust and Xander to then run away in shame. LOL

Cordy. Out of everyone it is Cordy who is least affected by Buffy’s new ability. Simply, everything Cordy thinks she says. She has no internal filter from brain to mouth. Which leads to some big funny.

Giles and the tree. The episode’s final moments sees Buffy revealing to Giles that she now knows he and her mom had sex, on top of a police car, twice. This causes a shocked Giles to walk in to a tree. Heh.


The two mouthless demons are particularly rubbery looking monsters. They are okay, but just a bit too rubbery for my tastes.


The library mind reading scene. Brilliance of story, theme, character and major league funny coming together as a seamless whole.


Xander (thinking, panicking): What am I gonna do? I think about sex all the time. Sex. Help! Four times five is thirty. Five times six is thirty-two. Naked girls. Naked women. Naked Buffy. Oh, stop me!
Buffy: “God Xander! Is that all you think about?”
Xander: “Actually...bye!”

Xander (watching the Cheerleaders cheering): “They really are very good.”
Oz: “Their spellings improved.”

Cordelia: “I still have knee marks on my back...[get some looks] from the pyramid.”

Buffy (to Giles): "Sure, we can work out after school. You know, if you're not too busy having sex with my mother!"
Giles (walking into a tree): "Ugh!"


The main plot line of Earshot is about the potential mass killing of students at a U.S. High School by another student. It was a brave subject for Joss and co. to tackle, taking on the possible reasons for such things happening. Unfortunately it was on April 20th 1999 that the awful events at Columbine High School occurred…less than one week before Earshot was due to air. As a result, Joss and the WB pulled the episode out of respect. It was finally aired as a one-off in Sept 1999. There is controversy over whether the ep should have been pulled at all. Apparently the WB were reluctant to ever show it. But cool heads won out and Earshot did eventually get aired. Personally I think the right decision was made. It should have been pulled at the time out of respect. But the episode has something to say about why such terrible events occur and so should indeed be seen by audiences. Luckily there is nothing in the episode to harm the flow of the main season arc so its being pulled in April 99 didn’t effect the overall story of season 3.

How many stakes?

Read my mind… 4.5 (out of 5)

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