Wednesday, 30 November 2011


A bear! You made a bear! Heh.

WRITER: Jane Espenson
DIRECTOR: Michael Lange


It’s almost Thanksgiving and in his latest menial job, Xander is helping excavate the ground at Sunnydale U for a new faculty building, only to fall through the ground in to what is the lost Sunnydale Mission, buried in an earthquake years and years ago. Unfortunately Xander’s accident also unleashes the vengeful spirit of a Native American Chumash warrior who infects Xander with all the illnesses the original European settlers infected his people with. The spirit then moves on to start taking murderous revenge on local people of status for the slaughter of his people centuries ago. At the same time, Spike, hunted by Initiative commandos, is wandering the town, miserable and starving, staring longingly through windows at other vampires having happy blood feasts. Poor chap. Meanwhile, Buffy is feeling the need for some homespun Thanksgiving food and general cosiness and decides to lay on a big meal at Giles’s house for the gang. But circumstances are gonna make Buffy’s meal harder and harder to prepare for. First, Willow is anti Thanksgiving. She sees it as a celebration of the massacre of an indigenous people. She is also against ‘slaying’ the Chumash warrior because he is rightfully upset by what was done to his people. This leads to her falling out with Giles who remains insistent that they must stop the warrior at all costs. Second, Xander turns up sick as a dog, finding out he now has several diseases including syphilis. Third, Spike turns up out of the blue seeking sanctuary and with info about the Initiative. Third, Buffy feels a strange invisible presence around her. A presence we soon find out is actually Angel who’s secretly been helping her after Doyle received a vision back in LA of Buffy in mortal danger. So, can the Chumash warrior be stopped before he kills anyone else? Can Spike be trusted? Can Xander’s syphilis be cured? Can Buffy get the turkey on the table in time for a nice cosy Thanksgiving dinner?


It’s all about Thanksgiving and what it means. Not being an American Thanksgiving means virtually nothing to me. But I understand there seems to be a debate about it in the US of which Willow takes one side: that it is a nasty sham - a ‘yam sham’ which is really all about the massacre of indigenous peoples. I do like how Giles, and to a greater degree Spike, (both Brits like me) take a far more hard-nosed and practical view of the whole thing. Anyway, as with all things there’s always more than one side, and at least this episode of Buffy, though very charming and very, very funny, makes an effort to expose some of the darker truths.


Hus, the Chumash spirit warrior


Big funny. Pangs is hilarious. The great Jane Espenson ™ wrote a wonderfully funny script that deals with the whole Thanksgiving issue nicely while playing up some great character beats and producing plenty of laugh out loud moments – many of which are to do with Spike. And speaking of…

Spike. Yep, once again James Marsters rocks! This is the start of Spike becoming an unwilling part of the Scooby Gang. Its needs must for poor Spike. He can’t get blood from people anymore so is starving while also being hunted by the Initiative commandos. So he seeks refuge with his sworn enemies hoping they won’t hurt him, as he’s all helpless and fangless. Putting Spike at the centre of the group dynamic works a treat. He sits there, tied to a chair, giving blunt acidic commentary on everything going on around him. He is the truth teller. He spells it out like it is. This role was originally taken by Cordelia and will soon be taken by Anya seeing as how Spike is limited in what he can do and where he can go by that darned daylight. But he will from now on remain an integral part of the Scooby Gang whether he or they want him to or not.

Sickly Xander. Poor chap. He gets various diseases all at once including (gulp!) syphilis. His pasty pathetic state is very, very funny.

A Buffy bear hug. Buffy wrestles a bear and it looks so silly but manages to be (intentionally) hilarious and made all the better by Spike’s reaction.

The ‘cavalry’ charging to the rescue…on bicycles.

The end Thanksgiving dinner scene and Xander’s faux pas. And Spike’s smug look.


The whole Angel sneaking around thing is pointless and contrived. It is only there to get Buffy to go visit him in LA in the following episode of Angel. Still, its cool seeing Captain Forehead mixing with the gang again.


Spike’s horrified reaction to the Chumash warrior turning in to a bear.


Buffy (about construction-working Xander): “Very manly. Not at all Village People.”

Willow (angrily to Giles): "You know, I don't think you want to help! You just want to slay the demon and go 'la, la, la.'"

Spike (on his implant): "I'm saying that Spike had a little trip to the vet, and now he doesn't chase the other puppies anymore."

Spike (shocked): "A bear! You made a bear!"
Buffy (timidly): "I didn't mean to!"
Spike (panicking): "Undo it! Undo it!

Xander (looking ill and worried):”Can we come rocketing back to the part about me and my new syphilis.”

Giles (dryly): “Yes, I’m always behind on terms. I'm still trying not to refer to you lot as 'bloody colonials.'”

Spike: “What part of 'help me!' do you not understand?”
Buffy: “The part where I help you.”

Anya: “So this is Angel. He's large and glowery, isn't he?”


I give thanks every time I watch this episode. 4 (out of 5)

Tuesday, 29 November 2011


Xander and Harmony’s pathetic fight. Heh.

WRITER: Doug Petrie
DIRECTOR: James A Contner


Spike, zapped unconscious at the start of the previous episode, wakes up in a white, sterile cell. He soon discovers he’s a prisoner, along with other supernatural types, in a secret government facility beneath Sunnydale and is destined for study and eventual vivisection. Naturally Big Bad wants out. And being a cunning badass he soon escapes. Meanwhile Buffy is helping Willow deal with Oz’s leaving, while Riley discovers to his surprise that he has feelings for Buffy and decides to try and “court” her. Buffy and Willow attend a party at Riley’s frat house where Riley attempts awkward conversation with Buffy before being urgently called away by his pals. Buffy is also called away urgently by Xander, who tells her that Spike is back in town and gunning for her. Back to the frat house and we soon discover that Riley is actually Agent Finn and he and his frat buddies are in fact the masked commandos seen sneaking around town this season. Riley and co. work for the secret government organisation that captured Spike. And Professor Walsh is the one in charge. We follow the boys down underground beneath their frat house where the huge hi tech headquarters of ‘The Initiative’ is revealed with its cells and its labs and its soldiers with laser guns. Professor Walsh tells Riley, who is the head soldier, that Hostile 17 (Spike) has escaped and needs to be tracked down and recaptured. Riley and his men suit up and head out on a Spike hunt. Meanwhile Spike has found out where Buffy now lives. He goes to her dorm surprising a morose Willow. Annoyed to find Buffy not there, Spike comforts himself by attacking poor defenceless Willow instead.


This is the episode that kicks the season’s main plot and theme in to gear. The plot is The Initiative and its plans to capture, study and use demons (or ‘subterrestrials’) for possible government applications. The theme is the clash of science and magic and how the two don’t play well together. The underlying theme I guess is about nature and primal forces (represented here by magic) and its continual clash with the ever increasing power of science and human invention and development. There is also the theme of human arrogance, thinking we know everything and then bumbling our way in to places and situations we find we can’t properly handle. Perhaps a bit of a comment on western foreign policy too? Though this was made pre the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions.


Spike and The Initiative


The script. Regular writer Doug Petrie delivers a mighty fine smorgasbord of a tale crammed full of drama, action, comedy, pathos, action, comedy, more action, more comedy, and plot twists. And he juggles it all perfectly. He also delivers one of THE best scenes of the entire season with the Spike and Willow dorm room scene. Pure genius. Only on Buffy.

The direction. James A Contner is, according to Doug Petrie in his episode commentary, the go to guy on Buffy for action. And he does a great job here. Spike’s escape from The Initiative is visually cool and pretty darn exciting. And the end corridor fight in the dorm is simply brilliant! But Contner also delivers big time with the comedy. This episode juggles multiple styles and tones often in the same scene. Great stuff!

Spike. James Marsters gets added to the main title credits and delivers a fangtastic performance. He’s the bad guy of the episode but he is also heroic in his cool James Bondian escape from The Initiative. He just radiates uber-cool badass before turning horrifically evil when attacking poor Willow in her room, which then, after the scary cliffhanger act break, leads directly in to one of the best and funniest scenes of the entire season.

The Spike can’t perform scene. Spike attacks Willow in a horrifically savage way, all frenzied hand held camera style. But when we come back to the scene we find a dejected Spike sat on the end of Willow’s bed, Willow unharmed and consoling him because he can’t bite her. Due to her post-Oz state she even takes it personally thinking Spike’s inability to perform is because he didn’t really want her anyway, to which Spike then consoles her by saying he’s always liked her and would bite her in a second if he could. It’s a wonderfully written scene performed with such bizarre warmth and humour by James Marsters and Alyson Hannigan. Moving from pure frenzied horror one moment to warmly hilarious the next is no mean feat. But this is partly why Buffy the Vampire Slayer works so well as a show. It isn’t just one thing. It straddles multiple genres and styles. It’s horror, comedy, romance, action, drama, teen angst, scifi etc. sometimes all in the one scene. And it works.

Nasty Parker gets knocked the f*%k out! Riley, hearing Parker Abrams make an especially crude and unkind joke at Buffy’s expense, punches the guy, knocking him out cold. The punch is as much a shock to Riley as it is to everyone else. It is then that he realises he has feelings for this rather “peculiar” girl. Nice one Agent Finn.

The Initiative HQ. We get the big reveal of the huge underground HQ in this episode. And it’s quite something. We get the gleaming white cells plus the central command and experimentation area. It’s huge and full of scientists and soldiers and high tech equipment. It looks fab. Very James Bond.

The Xander vs. Harmony fight. Xander, coming across Harmony in the woods, faces off with the upset (dumped again by Spike) vamp. The pair then engages in what is the saddest most pathetic fight ever. And it is hilarious. The director shoots it as if it is an epic fight between titans, using wide shots, close ups and even dramatic slow mo with a soaring score underneath. The truth is it is two people wrestling badly, slapping, kicking, hair pulling, and generally making a hash up of a fight. It ends with the pair agreeing to separate and go their own ways both highly embarrassed. Genius!

The end fight. The big showdown in Buffy’s dorm is great. It’s a threeway battle between Buffy, a bunch of Initiative commandos (including Riley) and Spike…all done in the dark and with gas from an exploded fire extinguisher and smoke from a flare gun. Thus Buffy can’t see Riley properly (he’s masked anyway) and Riley can’t see Buffy due to the darkness and the smoke. But the fight is big and wonderfully staged and directed and edited, taking place down a long dorm hallway. There’s even a cool Matrix homage with Buffy and the flare gun. “Dodge THIS!” Heh.


Spike and his implanted chip. Nothing against the chip itself, it’s a great plot device used to neuter the poor lad and stop him from hurting people. Only problem is, in this episode he is clearly hitting people and fighting after he gets chipped while also not being able to bite Willow. It is clearly stated that the chip is working and stops him from hurting any human. Joss admitted right after the episode aired that they dropped the ball here. It simply shouldn’t have happened. Spike should NOT have been filmed fighting and hurting any humans. It was an error, something that was missed.


The Spike and Willow ‘bedroom’ scene. Poor Spike.


Spike (about Buffy): "I always worried what would happen when that bitch got some funding."

Buffy (coming to Willow’s defence after Prof. Walsh lays in to her): "You know for someone who teaches human behaviour, you might try showing some."
Prof. Walsh: "It's not my job to coddle my students."
Buffy: "You're right. A human being in pain has nothing to do with your job." (walks away)

Forrest: “Check her out. Is she hot, or is she hot?”
Riley: “She's Buffy.”

Buffy: “Now if you'll excuse me, I need go find something slutty to wear tonight.”

Spike: “I don't understand. This sort of thing's never happened to me before.”
Willow: “Maybe you were nervous.”
Spike: “I felt all right when I started. Let's try again.”
(He tries to bite her, but he can't do it.)
Spike: “Damn it!”
Willow: “Maybe you're trying too hard. Doesn't this happen to every vampire?”
Spike: “Not to me, it doesn't!”
Willow: “It's me, isn't it?”
Spike: “What are you talking about?”
Willow: “Well, you came looking for Buffy, then settled. You didn't want to bite me, I just happened to be around.”
Spike: “Piffle.”
Willow: “I know I'm not the kind of girl vamps like to sink their teeth into. It's always like, 'Oh, you're like a sister to me,' or, 'Oh, you're such a good friend.'”
Spike: “Don't be ridiculous. I'd bite you in a heartbeat.”
Willow: “Really?”
Spike: “Thought about it.”
Willow:” When?”
Spike: “Remember last year? You had on that fuzzy pink number with the lilac underneath.” (Gives her a sexy look.)
Willow: “I never would have guessed. You played the bloodlust kinda cool.”
Spike: “Mmmm. I hate being obvious. Being all fangy and 'Rrrr.' Takes the mystery out.”
Willow: “But if you could...”
Spike: “If I could, yeah.”
Willow: “You know, this doesn't make you any less terrifying.”
Spike: “Don't patronise me! (Paces around the room.) I'm only a hundred and twenty-six!”
Willow: “You're being too hard on yourself. Why don't we wait a half an hour and try again? (Makes a funny face, coming to her senses.) Or... (She grabs a lamp and whacks him over the head.)


The Initiative HQ was actually filmed at Skunkworks in California where the US Airforce Stealth Bombers were built. Hence it looks huge and suitably high tech.

Doug Petrie in his commentary states that the main touchstones for this episode were James Bond movies, the classic British TV show The Prisoner (of which he and Joss are huge fans – see the big white balls hanging around The Initiative HQ as a homage) and The Matrix. Plus a bunch of classic rom com movies.

James Marsters has been added to the opening credits.

Seth Green's name has been taken out of the opening credits.

It is in this episode that we finally discover that Oz's real name is Daniel Osbourne.


Take the Initiative. 4.5 (out of 5)

Sunday, 27 November 2011


A video about this episode featuring ‘Need to Destroy’ by THC as heard in the episode.

WRITER: Marti Noxon
DIRECTOR: David Grossman


It’s full moon time again and Oz is getting ready to get hairy. But his growing friendship and obvious attraction to sultry singer Veruca is worrying Willow, though she won’t say anything as she doesn’t want to come across all jealous. On the first night of the full moon (remember in Buffy that werewolves change the night before, the night of, and the night after the full moon) Oz gets loose from his cage and meets up with another werewolf, scaring Professor Walsh in the process. The two werewolves fight. Fade to black. The next day Oz wakes up in the woods naked…entwined with a naked Veruca. It is obvious the pair got it on while in wolf form. Veruca is a free spirit and won’t be caged when she turns. She tries to entice Oz to give up locking himself away at full moons and to be with her from now on. Their mutual animal attraction is undeniable but Oz resists. That night, concerned that Veruca might hurt someone, Oz tricks her in to his lockable cage. The next morning Willow turns up to free him but she is heartbroken to find a naked Oz and naked Veruca entwined yet again. Oz tries to explain but Willow is inconsolable. The next night, Veruca, determined to get Oz for herself, decides to eliminate the one thing standing in her way: Willow.


The heartbreak around relationships that for what ever reason are just not working anymore. Plus the old resisting the beast inside, and how pure animal lust based upon nothing more can be destructive.




The script. Marti Noxon wrote a smart, funny, tragic, heartbreaking script that in one episode utterly destroys a brilliant relationship which had been at the very heart of this show for the previous two years.

Oz and Willow. We watched as Oz became utterly entranced upon his first seeing Willow back in early season 2, a then rather awkward, geeky young girl. And we watched Willow become deeply attached to this kind, whip smart, stoically funny base player who just happens to be a werewolf. Their chemistry together has been second to none, making them a pure joy to watch on screen. But in the space of 44 minutes it all gets torn asunder.

Alyson Hannigan. We already know she’s an excellent actress and in this episode she gets to bring the pain in a big way: the floods of tears, the look of utter devastation that haunts her face and her entire demeanour. As Joss once said, and I paraphrase, if you want to get the audience on side then just put Willow in danger or make her cry. Instant emotional gut wrench. And he’s right. Ally making the big wet eyes just stabs your heart.

Seth Green. We love Seth Green. He’s Scott Evil. He’s Chris Griffin. He’s co-creator of the ace Robot Chicken. He’s been in loads of movies. But to some of us he will always be Daniel ‘Oz’ Osbourne – the first big love of Willow’s life. Here, Seth gives a typically low-key Oz style performance, though you can feel the confusion, the anger, the pain and the anguish radiating from him throughout. His last scene with Willow is brilliant and would make the stoniest of hearts crack just a little. We will miss you Oz. You were THE (wolf) man! *Sniff*

Spike’s hilarious cameo. At the start of the episode the platinum vamp is watching from a safe distance as Buffy bests a vamp. He then starts to give an angry and dramatic monologue directed at the Slayer only to be suddenly and unceremoniously stunned unconscious by one of the mysterious army guys seen prowling around all season. And that’s the last we see of him all episode.


Though a very good episode it feels like a rather rushed exit for such a beloved character. But there were unavoidable reasons for this. See ‘AND ANOTHER THING’ further down for more.

Veruca. The sexy, sultry, dangerous bad girl act doesn’t really come off. She comes across more as a rather annoying wannabe. You want sexy bad girl? Faith. ‘nuff said. Paige Moss who plays Veruca is okay but using my own inner animal I detected no real depth or edge to her performance. Nothing to make my inner beast perk up. Guess it’s just a werewolf thing.

The werewolves. Since the show redesigned the wolves after their first appearance in 2.15 ‘Phases’ they have looked like utter shit. I hate them. They look like people in silly furry costumes prancing around like idiots. There is nothing remotely wolf-like about them. Professor Walsh even says in this episode that at first she thought they were gorillas. That’s an insult to gorillas. And what's with Oz’s ridiculous werewolf mutton chops in his mid-transformation phase? Jeez!

Lip synching. Paige Moss’s lip synching to the songs Veruca sings is terrible. It doesn’t match at all. Plus her ‘sultry’ and ‘seductive’ stage performance is so overdone it is pretty darn funny.


A tie between Spike’s hilarious cameo at the start and the last scene between Willow and Oz. It gets you right here (points at chest).


Buffy (to random vamp she's fighting): "You know very well, you eat this late... (Stakes him.)... you're gonna get heartburn. Get it? Heartburn? (He turns to dust.) That's it? That's all I get? One lame-ass vamp with no appreciation for my painstakingly thought out puns. I don't think the forces of darkness are even trying."

Willow: "I have wrong feelings about other guys sometimes. But I feel guilty and I flog and punish."
Buffy: "Exactly. I'm sure Oz is flogging and punishing himself... this is sounding wrong before I even finish."

Spike (to Buffy, out of earshot): “Watch your mouth, little girl. You should know better than to tempt the Fates that way. 'Cause the Big Bad is back, and this time it's... VARGHHHHHH!” (As he's being shocked with a taser.)

Giles: “Don't look at me that way. I'm down with the new music.”

Willow (To Xander): “I need a translator from the 'Y' side of things.”

Oz: “Look, Buffy, you should know that, that —“
Buffy: “Oz, now might be a good time for your trademark stoicism.”

Willow: “Oz, don't you love me?”
Oz: “My whole life I've never loved anything else.”


THC is the real band playing the music of Shy, Veruca’s band.

Seth Green’s departure from Buffy was a rather short notice affair. He’d had a big hit that summer with Austin Powers 2 and was looking to further his film career. Luckily Oz wasn’t killed off and would reappear in one episode of season 5 to draw a final line under the Willow/Oz story.


Bye, bye Oz. 3.5 (out of 5)


Excellent musical tribute vid to the slayer and her relationship with booze.

WRITER: Tracey Forbes
DIRECTOR: David Solomon


Still feeling depressed, confused and dejected over being a Parker Abrams one night stand, Buffy takes solace at the on campus pub where Xander is now working (illegally) behind the bar. In a vulnerable state, she gets drawn in by a gang of hard drinking upper classmen and starts knocking back the beer by the pitcher developing a real taste for the amber nectar. Only problem is, said beer has been magically enhanced so that prolonged ingestion regresses someone to a inward and outward caveman state – complete with heavy brow, monosyllabic communication and acting purely on base wants and needs. Can Xander and the gang get to Buffy before she regresses to full on cave slayer, and can they stop the marauding cavemen upper classmen from hurting people?


There is none. It’s all there in the title and on the surface. Metaphors be gone! Apparently beer is bad for you and too much turns you in to an aggressive, foolish sub human. There’s a bit of stuff about the human id, ego and superego and how we manage their competing needs in life, but it’s really just padding to what is the most blatant and unsubtle story ever done on Buffy.


The writer? No, okay, I guess it’s the gang of marauding upper classmen cavemen.


Beer Bad is notorious amongst fans as possibly THE most despised episode of Buffy. Personally I don’t hate it as it still has a few redeeming features. But not many. So here goes…

The caveman make-up and transformation FX are actually pretty good.

Xander’s enthusiasm to his friends about being a barman and his barman’s opening spiel, which includes a concerned face, a clicked on lighter, followed by the words “Rough day?”

Willow getting the upper hand with nasty Parker. The single best scene in the episode. Way to go Will.

Cave Slayer Buffy. Always the pro, Sarah throws herself in to the role. Thankfully she’s not gone all heavy browed like the others (Xander cut her off in time) but she’s still all matted straggly hair, monosyllabic aggression and ape-like pratfalls. She’s pretty darn funny too.

Normal Buffy’s earlier fantasies of Parker apologising to her for his behaviour, which comes full circle hilariously as he actually does apologise to Cave Slayer Buffy, not realising what’s happened to her. Cave Slayer Buffy’s scowling response? After a beat, she whacks him over the head with a stick, knocking him out cold. Screen goes black. Credits. It’s a perfectly timed gag.


The story is quite simply rubbish. Metaphor and theme is disposed of and replaced with a stupid, rather insulting and patronising story about the dangers of alcohol. Buffy has done this sort of thing before but in far more subtle and creative ways. I expect a lot more from this show. If this were some other less intelligent, less sophisticated supernatural drama (*cough*Charmed*cough*) then I’d kinda expect it. But not from Buffy. Was Joss away that week or something?

The upper classmen cavemen are all utterly embarrassing in their running around, grunting and general stupidity. The make-up is cool but can’t mask the stupidity of the whole affair.

Buffy still obsessing over Parker. It's getting annoying now. C'mon Buff, snap out of it.


Willow getting one over on nasty Parker. She had me going for a while.


Xander (chipping in on a conversation between Buffy and Willow): "Pfffft. Nothing can defeat the penis!" (Notices how loud he was) "Too loud. Very unseemly."

Xander: “Giles, don’t make Cave Slayer unhappy.”

Xander: “How much beer would you say a person would need to consume before they start seriously questing for fire?”

Willow (To Parker): "That's right. I got your number, id boy. Only thing you're thinking about is how long before you can jump on my bones."

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. Oh, Buffy, are you OK? Do you want to talk about it?”
Buffy: “I went to see Xander. Then I saw Parker. Then came... beer.”
Willow: “And then group sex?”
Buffy: “Pffft... gutterface. No! Just lots and lots of beer.”

Buffy: “Want beer. Like beer. Beer good.”
Xander: “Beer bad. Bad, bad beer. What the hell am I saying?”

Xander: “And was there a lesson in all this? Huh? What did we learn about beer?”
Buffy (grins stupidly): “Foamy!”


This episode was Emmy nominated for hairstyling.

Kal Penn of Harold and Kumar fame (amongst other things) plays one of the cavemen.

In this ep we are introduced to sultry singer Veruca who in the following episode will play a major role in one of the main characters leaving the show.


It’s not Scooby Doo anymore; it’s Captain Caveslayer! 2 (out of 5)

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


Short episode promo

WRITER: David Fury
DIRECTOR: Tucker Gates


It’s Halloween and one of the frat houses is throwing a Scary House Halloween party. Said house has been prepared to be everything innocently spooky and scary for the soon to arrive party guests. But unbeknownst to the frat house boys, a symbol they found in a book and then painted on to the floor for creepy effect is really a mystical symbol designed to bring forth the terrible fear demon Gachnar. All the symbol needs to start its work is some human blood, which Oz accidentally supplies after cutting himself while fixing the party’s sound system. Later on that night, Buffy, Willow, Oz and Xander arrive at the frat house ready for some silly, creepy seasonal frolics…only to find it seemingly deserted. After venturing inside, the house then traps them, separates them, and begins to subject each of them to their deepest personal fears…


Well, the whole thing is really just a big ol’ Halloween fest. An excuse to have some creepy good fun. Thematically though we are in fairly obvious territory: facing and conquering your fears, not letting them control you. The gang’s fears have changed now that they’ve grown older. Back in season one’s ‘Nightmares’ Willow’s biggest fear was being on stage. Now it is one of her spells going wrong and turning on her. Xander’s fear was clowns. Now it is being invisible to his friends. Of course Oz wasn’t in season one but his fear is of losing control and turning in to a werewolf and hurting Willow. Meanwhile Buffy’s fear is no longer rejection by her father. Now it is that no matter what she does, how hard she fights, she won’t be able to save people. As the gang has matured so have their fears.


A scary house which includes knife-wielding corpses, transforming werewolves, vampires buried in the basement, bats, spiders, eyeballs and all sorts of creepy stuff. Oh, and Gachnar, the fear demon. And Anya dressed as a bunny.


The story. David Fury wrote a fun rollercoaster spooky house tale for Halloween that has decent thematic depth and is all about the characters.

Giles fully embracing the spirit of Halloween…in a sombrero. And Buffy’s reaction.

Gleeful Giles with his toy Frankenstein’s Monster. “It’s alive!”

Anya and the thing that scares her the most: bunnies.

Anya in her giant bunny costume. So cute. So funny.

Giles with a chainsaw.

Buffy as Little Red Riding Hood. She looks real cute in her blood red cloak. It harkens back to season three’s ‘Helpless’ where we last saw her wearing a red hooded cloak whilst fleeing from psycho vampire Zachary Kralik.

Xander dressed in a tux just in case they all get turned in to their costumes again ala season two’s ‘Halloween’. If they do, then Xander wants to be James Bond. Buffy thinks he’ll more likely be a waiter.

Oz’s Halloween costume. Willow has come as Joan of Arc as she appreciates Joan’s close relationship with God. When the gang ask a normally dressed Oz what he’s come as, Oz silently reveals a small nametag on his jacket. It reads simply ‘God’. Heh.

The ‘big’ reveal of Gachnar.


It’s a standalone episode and a token Halloween episode so doesn’t really add anything to the season. Still, it’s a lot of fun.


It’s a toss up between Anya in bunny costume and the hilarious final reveal.


Xander: “Well, that's the funny thing about me. I tend to hear the actual words people say and accept them at face value.”
Anya: “That's stupid!”
Xander: “I accept that.”

Buffy: “Thank the Lord.”
Oz: “You're welcome.”

Buffy: "Conjuring? Will, let's be realistic here, okay? Your basic spells are usually only about 50-50."
Willow (angrily): "Oh yeah? Well... so's your face!"
Buffy: "What?"

Xander (taunting the fear demon in a silly voice): "Who's the little fear demon? Come on, who's the little fear demon?"
Giles: "Don't taunt the fear demon."
Xander (worried now): "Why? Can he hurt me?"
Giles: "No, it's just... tacky."

Giles (annoyed, suddenly realising what the caption under the drawing of Gachnar says): “Actual size.”


A fearful 4 (out of 5)

Tuesday, 15 November 2011


Spike v Buffy smackdown

WRITER: Jane Espenson
DIRECTOR: James A. Contner


Spike is back in Sunnydale. He’s searching for the mythical Gem of Amara - a precious stone that can, according to legend, render any vampire who wears it unkillable. The gang finds out and Buffy sets out to find Spike and stop him before he can find the Gem and become invulnerable. But Spike hasn’t come back alone. Drusilla is AWOL still. So instead Spike has now hooked up with…Harmony! Um, Harmony? Cordy’s one time airhead best friend? Yes indeed. It was a small bit in the ‘Graduation Day part 2’ end battle but Harm got bit by a vamp and is now a denizen of the night, though she is still just as vapid and airheaded as always. And now, for some bizarre reason, Spike has hooked up with her, even though she is steadily driving him nuts with her continual inane chatter and constant demands. Meanwhile, Buffy has hooked up with smooth and seemingly sensitive fellow student Parker Abrams. She spends the night with the guy after they go to a party, only for him to latterly cruelly discard her as nothing more than a bit of fun. Poor Buff is confused and emotionally wounded by this rejection and just doesn’t understand. At the same time, ex-vengeance demon and now cute human girl Anya confronts Xander, saying she wants to have sex with him to try and get him out of her head. Being a guy and apparently unable to resist Anya’s, um, charms, Xander agrees and they do indeed do the deed. But afterwards things don’t quite work out as Anya had planned.


The emotional implications of sex. Oh, and bad, bad men. We can be such a thoughtless, cruel, unfeeling bunch. Well, at least the guys in this episode of Buffy are. This is basically about emotionally vulnerable girls being ‘taken advantage of’ by predatory men. Okay, in Xander’s case that’s kinda unfair as Anya is basically doing all the predating. But Xander could see she was acting strange and was clearly confused and vulnerable, yet he still went ahead and got his jollies. Meanwhile it is obvious that Spike is with Harmony for only one reason. He clearly can’t stand her and is continually and viciously mean to her, even going so far as to try to kill her at one point. Yep, she is annoying, and a soulless demon, but even so. And then there’s Buffy. Suckered in by ‘sensitive’ sweet talker Parker. He tells her just what she wants and needs to hear, and thus gets her in to bed, getting his jollies, before then cutting her loose and moving on to the next potential conquest. The episode ends badly for the three main women of the piece with the final shot being of Buffy, Harmony and Anya all walking away in different directions, moving slowly, sadly, in to darkness.


Spike and nasty Parker.


Jane Espenson. Yep, it’s a Jane Espenson script. So you’re gonna get some great character beats and some big funny amidst the drama and thematic depth. This episode has one of my all time favourite lines in Buffy. After a pouty Harmony says to Spike, “You love that tunnel more than me,” Spike replies caustically, “I love syphilis more than you!”

Spike. It’s James Marsters playing Spike. ‘nuff said.

Anya. Not only do we get the return of Spike – the best character in all of Buffy and (in my opinion) all of TV ever, but we also get the return of ex-vengeance demon Anya and her innocently direct, often horribly rude, yet always hilarious attitude. Emma Caulfield is simply brilliant. Anya rocks!

Music. There are some good tunes in this episode, especially at the party Buffy and Parker go to where for some reason the then already famous singer Biff Naked is playing.

Daylight vamp fight. The daytime showdown between a gem wearing Spike and an emotionally bruised Buffy is small scale but is still an inventive, well-staged battle. The fight blocking and stunt work is top notch.

Crossover. This story leads directly in to Angel episode 1.3 ‘In the Dark’ in which Oz brings the Gem of Amara to Angel in LA as a gift from Buffy only for Spike to show up and try to get it back. Back then, before Buffy moved to UPN from season six, Angel aired directly after Buffy on the WB. Two hours of solid Buffyverse every week. Yay!

Harm’s Way. A special shout out to Mercedes McNab who returns as Harmony and has much more to do now that Harm’s joined the fang gang. She makes for a wonderfully shallow, ditzy vampire.


It doesn’t. Spike returns and he is brilliant. As does Anya. My only issues are how come someone as famous as Biff Naked would be openly playing a frat party? And how does Buffy manage to wake up the next morning after a night of raucous sex looking a million dollars and with not a single hair out of place. Only on TV.


Xander’s explosive cranberry juice reaction when he turns around and sees Anya naked. Heh.


Buffy: “Harmony’s a vampire? She must be dying without a mirror.”

Anya: “Sometimes, in my dreams, you're all naked.”
Xander: “Really? You know, if I'm in the checkout lane at the Wal-Mart I've had the same one.”

Anya: “I like you. You're funny and you're nicely shaped, and frankly it's ludicrous to have these interlocking bodies and not... interlock. Please remove your clothing now.”
Xander: “And the amazing thing? Still more romantic than Faith.”

Harmony: “You love that tunnel more than me.”
Spike: “I love syphilis more than you.”

Oz (to Giles): “OK, either I'm borrowing all your records or I'm moving in.”

Spike (to Buffy): “So, you let Parker take a poke, eh? Didn't seem like you knew each other that well. What exactly did it take to pry apart the Slayer's dimpled knees?”

Buffy: “So what I'm wondering is: does this always happen? Sleep with a guy and he goes all evil?”


Harmony's last name is Kendall. The character Sarah Michelle Gellar played on US soap All My Children was named Kendall. A little inside joke?

The album that Oz holds up at Giles' place is Loaded, the Velvet Underground's 1970 album.

James Marsters was uncredited in the original airing of this episode (he is later added to the opening credits).


This one’s a Gem (of Amara). 4.5 (out of 5)

Sunday, 13 November 2011


It's all super fun!

WRITER: Marti Noxon
DIRECTOR: David Grossman


Creepy demons turn up in Sunnydale, clearly looking for something or someone. Meanwhile Buffy is getting more and more aggravated by her relentlessly perky, neat freak, Celine Dion and Cher loving roommate Kathy. So much so that Buffy begins to suspect that Kathy is in fact evil. That she is not human, and that she must be stopped. Buffy’s friends are freaked out by this and think Buffy has gone off the deep end, so they try to convince her that Kathy is really a normal (ish) human being and not some evil hell beast that needs to be slayed. But Buffy won’t be convinced and is determined to gather the proof of Kathy’s inhumanity in order to validate her intended forthcoming slaying of her roommate.


The metaphor is the roommate from hell. Literally. And carrying on from 4.1 ‘The Freshman’, it remains part of the whole moving out in to the world and out of your comfort zone deal. Part of doing that successfully is learning to get on with people you might not have bothered with before, to allow for people’s foibles and habits, to learn patience and compromise. This is Buffy’s first experience of living with someone outside of home. And she gets Kathy, who’s a total neat freak (whereas Buff can be a bit of a slob) and obsessed with annoyingly mundane details like keeping a log of phone calls for when the bill comes in, for labelling individual items of food etc. Plus she has habits that Buffy truly hates – closing the window at night, clipping her toenails on the bed, playing Cher’s horrendous chart botherer ‘Believe’ over and over and over and over…


Yes, Kathy is annoying, and there are a couple of creepy looking demons who lurk around the place, but as has been done before and will be done again, it is actually Buffy herself who is doing the scary stuff for most of the episode.


The script. Marti Noxon’s script is, to quote Kathy, “Super fun!” Watching Buff slowly start to unravel due to the extreme mental torture of having to listen to Cher’s ‘Believe’ over and over and over is most amusing. It is hilarious that Buffy’s only plausible answer as to why a human being would behave in such a way is because they are an evil soulless demon.

Kathy. Yes, she is annoying – though mostly due to her music tastes. But she actually comes across (to those of us not obsessed with her possible evilness) as a rather sweet and (overly) friendly girl. She makes the effort to hang out with Buffy and to be nice to Buffy’s friends. But as we know, Buffy is mightily territorial over such things and is often extremely possessive and defensive about her gang of pals. See what happened last year with Faith. Dagney Kerr is a cutie and she plays Kathy with energetic perkiness and an offbeat charm. Sorry Buff, I kinda liked her.

SMG unhinged. Sarah gets to do all out comedy…if rather dark and batty comedy. And she is very, very good at it. Nutty Buffy is funny.


It’s perhaps just a bit too light and silly, though the metaphor of the roommate from hell is nicely played. Problem being, despite the awful music, and the ultimate reveal, I quite liked Kathy. Sorry.


Xander and Oz watching Buffy who has just been tied up and Xander’s nervously manic laugh when Oz suggests they go check that her bindings are tight enough.


Buffy (to Oz): "So then Kathy's like, 'It's share-time.' And I'm like, 'Oh yeah? Share this!'" (Buffy punches the air a few times.)
Oz: "So either you hit her or you did your wacky mime routine for her."
Buffy: "Well, I didn't do either, actually. But she deserved it, don't ya think?"
Oz: "Nobody deserves mime, Buffy."

Buffy: "Kathy's evil. I'm an evil fighter. It's simple. I'm gonna have to kill her."

Buffy: “And what are we if not women up to a challenge?”
Willow: “Exactly. I mean, did we not put the 'grr' in 'girl'?”

Buffy (to Willow as she leaves to patrol): “Wish me monsters.”

Buffy: “Cool. You guys can do the brain thing. I'm gonna go to class.”
Oz: “Which could also be construed as the brain thing.”
Buffy: “Not when you're minoring in Napping 101.”

Buffy: “She irons her jeans. She's evil.”

Xander: “Why couldn't Giles have shackles like any self-respecting bachelor?”


Clayton Barber, who played a demon in this episode, was Angel's stunt double in the past. He was another vampire's stunt double (Frost's), in the movie Blade.

Dagney Kerr used to be a singer and dancer on cruise ships before she started acting. She went on to a recurring role on Desperate Housewives.


Do you believe in life after love? 3.5 (out of 5)


WRITER: Joss Whedon
DIRECTOR: Joss Whedon


Buffy, Willow and Oz have just started college at UC Sunnydale. But while Willow is clearly in her element and Oz is being just as laconic and unfazed as ever, Buffy is feeling lost, overwhelmed and highly intimidated by her new life. Unable to find her way around the huge campus, she gets publicly humiliated by a highly obnoxious lecturer before realising that she also has to share a dorm room with one annoyingly perky neat freak of a girl with a decidedly unhealthy Cher and Celine Dion obsession. As if things weren’t bad enough, Buff soon discovers there’s a gang of vamps on campus, led by the supremely bitchy Sunday (played gloriously by Katharine Towne), who for the past eighteen years have been targeting especially vulnerable freshmen, bullying them, stealing their stuff and then killing them. Thinning the herd of the weak ones as they see it. Feeling lost and out of sorts, Buffy’s first run in with Sunday goes badly, ending with the Slayer battered and bruised and having to beat a hasty retreat. Gleefully sensing weakness, Sunday decides to target Buffy as her next victim for persecution.


Leaving the relatively safe and known environment of school to either go to university or in to the world of work can be a massive change and culture shock. Some handle it better than others. It can be scary and confusing, often denting confidence. This is exactly what happens to Buffy. She’s left the comforting knowns of school and home life to be thrust in to what is a disorientating and intimidating environment, one to which she feels she doesn’t belong. It doesn’t help that her old support network seems to have crumbled. Willow and Oz are busy with classes and Uni life. Her mom is busy with work having turned Buffy’s bedroom in to storage. Xander is MIA on a see America road trip. And Giles, no longer officially a watcher and unemployed since the school blew up, is busy chilling out and, er, ‘entertaining’ an old friend. All of this leaves out girl feeling lost, miserable and alone, the perfect vulnerable target for nasty Sunday. And speaking of…


Queen bitch vampire Sunday as played to the hilt by the excellent Katharine Towne. Her small band of vamps doesn’t really figure as they are just as bullied and browbeaten as Sunday’s human victims. It’s a shame Sunday gets staked. She would have been a great long-term addition to the show.


The script. Joss writes a perfect introductory script for the new season, laying out the new environments, possible relationship shifts, and introducing new characters and mysteries that will carry through the entire year. It also balances perfectly the themes of the story with meaningful character development, plenty of pathos, bone crunching action, and lots of subtle and not so subtle comedy. A lot of Joss’s dialogue is especially wonderful here, encompassing the kind of smart, witty wordplay the show is famous for, along with quirky life observations, pop culture references, and even art and literary quotes and references that would most likely fly way over the heads of most. You just don’t get this kind of thing on TV anywhere else. It really shouldn’t work. But it does.

Theme. The central theme of the story is strong and resonates perfectly. We feel Buffy’s vulnerability, her isolation, her loss of confidence. We’ve all been there.

SMG. She gives a great performance and really sells us on Buffy feeling overwhelmed and lost. She wanders around the big, crowded campus looking so small and fragile. When the obnoxious lecturer cruelly humiliates her you just wanna give her a big ol’ hug. And when she is again humiliated by nasty Sunday it’s almost too much to take. You can’t do this to Buffy! Joss just loves to make her suffer.

Sunday. But as great as SMG is, it is Katharine Towne as evil bitch vamp Sunday who steals the show. Her calm yet vicious putdowns and general sense of power and effortless superiority makes us hate her and love her in equal measure. Watching her beat, abuse and humiliate poor Buffy is pretty harsh stuff. And she does it so well. I’d have loved to see her get together with Spike.

Xander. Xander pops up late in the episode to give Buffy the much-needed pep talk she needs. He spells it out for her, reminding her exactly who she is and what she can do. The entire scene with Xander and Buffy at the Bronze is brilliant. It is very funny and also very tender and touching. Nicky Brendon is so darn good and reminds us that Xander is the beating human heart of the show. His comforting, encouraging and inspiring speech to Buffy is so well delivered that any true fan couldn’t help but feel their eyes start to sting a bit.

Yoda. Xander’s mangled Yoda quote from that summer’s The Phantom Menace is hilarious. It’s better than the movie.

Giles. Man of leisure Giles living like Hugh Hefner. Heh.

Riley. This ep sees first appearance of Marc Blucas as Riley Finn. Sod the haters, I always liked Riley. He was just a nice, decent guy.

The fights. The first fight between Buffy and Sunday is a full on, fast paced, bone crunching smackdown. It looks like it really hurts. The second one is Buffy pretty much doing the rope-a-dope.

Stake. Buffy’s uber-cool stake twirl near episode’s end, showing us she’s got her mojo back.


It doesn’t suck. However the only thing that does bug me is the ‘reconnaissance’ gag. Xander asks Buffy if she’s up for a bit of reconnaissance. She looks confused and asks if he means getting arty like they did in Europe years ago? To which Xander replies, “That was the Renaissance.” I’m sorry, but Buffy is not that dumb. I know it’s an ongoing gag in the show that she occasionally gets words muddled, but Buffy knows perfectly well what reconnaissance means. This just makes her appear needlessly dumb. Naughty Joss.


Xander’s moving and heartfelt confidence boost speech to Buffy.


It’s Joss so there’s tons. But I’ll go with…

Girl Vamp: "Does this sweater make me look fat?"
Sunday: "No. The fact that you're fat makes you look fat. That sweater just makes you look purple."

Giles (to Buffy after she’s seen his ‘friend’ Olivia): "I'm not supposed to have a private life?"
Buffy (looking uncomfortable): "No. Because you're very, very old and it's gross."

Buffy (to Giles): "OK, remember before you became Hugh Hefner, when you used to be a Watcher?"

Buffy: “How do you get to be renowned? I mean, like, do you have to be nowned first?”
Willow: “Yes. First there's the painful nowning process.”

Willow: “It's just in high school, knowledge was pretty much frowned upon; you really had to work to learn anything. But here, the energy, the collective intelligence, it's like this force, this penetrating force, and I can just feel my mind opening up, you know? And letting this place just thrust into and, and spurt knowledge into ... that sentence ended up in a different place than it started out in.”
Buffy: “I'm with you. I'm all for spurty knowledge.”

Eddie: “Of Human Bondage. Have you ever read it?”
Buffy: “Oh, I'm not really into porn. I mean, I'm just trying to cut way back.”

Xander (to a morose Buffy): “And you're sitting here at the Bronze looking like you just got diagnosed with cancer of the puppy.”

Xander: “Buffy, I've gone through some fairly dark times in my life. Faced some scary things, among them the kitchen at the fabulous Ladies Night club. Let me tell ya' something: When it's dark, and I'm all alone, and I'm scared, or freaked out or whatever, I always think, 'What would Buffy do?' You're my hero. Ok, sometimes when it's dark and I'm all alone, I think, 'What is Buffy wearing?’...”

Buffy (to Sunday): “Let me answer that question with a head butt.”


Couple of foreshadowing moments: first, Buffy’s humorous line about the price of school books and how she hopes when her mom gets the bill she has “…a funny aneurysm.” With our future knowledge this line is far from funny. Second, Xander’s call out for “Avengers assemble!” in order to bring the Scoobies back together. As we know, in summer 2012, Joss will be calling the real Avengers to assemble! Yay!

The skylight above Sunday’s lair is the same set used in season 1 finale ‘Prophecy Girl’ and in 3.19 ‘Choices’.

When Buffy answers the phone and no one speaks, it's Angel on the other end. He makes the call during the premiere of Angel, 1.1 ‘City of…’


Sunday bloody Sunday. 4 (out of 5)