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The nineteenth episode of season two of Buffy The Vampire Slayer opens with Buffy moping around at the Bronze while slow music plays. We meet a new character, Ben, who approaches her and tests the waters to see if she would like to ask him to the Sadie Hawkins dance. Buffy shoots him down, probably because he makes Owen look like a fresh-faced young man. Who was in charge of casting for this show?
Somehow Buffy gets to the school from here? Was The Bronze always in the school? No, that can’t be. But now she is at school. Was the dancing going on at the school? That makes even less sense. She sees a couple fighting, and the boy pulls a gun on the girl! Oh no, it’s going to be a Very Special Episode of Buffy about gun violence in America’s schools (and this episode aired within 12 months of what would be Columbine, so… eesh).
Buffy disarms the gunman (gunkid?), at which point both the girl and the boy seem confused as to what was going on. Oh, so just typical supernatural mumbo jumbo after all. Booo. Show me the slayer fighting our real, modern problems! Like gun violence or steroid use (Wait for it…)
After about ten episodes off, the Principal is back, and he is PISSED at Buffy for… stopping a school shooting? His rationale is nonsense, but basically it’s all “I don’t trust you blah blah blah”. I liked it better when I thought he was building to be a secret good guy who was motivating Buffy to be her best. Now he’s just idiotic and cliched.
A 1955 yearbook wiggles free from the shelf, and Buffy checks it out.
Willow is still teaching Ms. Calendar’s class, and… how would THAT even work? Is she being paid? Is she in the teacher’s union? Is she teaching computer class when her other classes are going on? I wish–I WISH–as a writer I felt as comfortable with being lazy as this show’s writers do. They literally just think of a scene they want to shoot and write it in. There is ZERO consideration for how much sense it makes or not.
She does mention she was lucky Ms. Calendar had her lesson plans on her computer. DO YOU MEAN THE COMPUTER ANGEL OBLITERATED?
Just… okay, fine; be lazy and stupid, but at least
two episodes ago.
Buffy dozes off in class and dreams about a 1950’s era version of her classroom. There is a boy in the class who seems to be engaged in an affair with his teacher. When she rouses, her teacher is writing “Don’t walk away from me bitch” on the chalkboard. Hey, that’s what the possessed kid earlier said to his girlfriend!
Buffy is explaining all of this to Xander, and a decaying arm reaches out from his locker and tries to pull him in! They rush off to Giles, who barely has to think before deeming this a poltergeist. That was, as with most things on this show, super easy. EffortlessTM, if you will.
A janitor and a teacher start having the same argument the two kids earlier did, and the janitor pulls the gun on her. He shoots her this time, though, and then the show has the audacity to throw a human-shaped doll off of a balcony to its death! Giles tackles the confused janitor, and the gun dissipates.
Giles has convinced himself the haunting is Calendar’s spirit, despite the gang telling him that none of the M.O.’s match up with anything about her at all. Giles disagrees in a very respectful and British manner!
The Scoobies decide to do two minutes of research into their school, and Willow instantly and EffortlesslyTM finds the incident of a student shooting his teacher; Buffy equally instantly recognizes all of this as from 1955 and the people in her dreams. How does crime still exist in the Buffyverse? All criminal activity can be solved by less than twenty-four hours of looking at books or files.
At lunchtime, all of the food turns into snakes! Ah yes, that part of the forty-year old tragedy where an infatuated student shot the teacher he was having sex with where all of the snakes turned up. This haunting isn’t even thematic anymore! Now it’s just doing jump scares.
We see Principal outside talking to the police, and he insists they say a sewer line backed up. He openly acknowledges the Hellmouth! Honestly, it has been so long since he appeared, I forgot he was knowingly making up excuses for mysticism previously. But hey, at least I got several episodes of Drusilla “acting” instead of this subplot developing.
Willow–finally on her way to becoming a witch?–finds out from Ms. Calendar’s pagan files how to exorcise a poltergeist. She, Cordy, Buffy, and Xander head to the school, but the doors shut them in. They split up to set up the exorcism, whereupon they all get either attacked or mildly spooked. Giles saves Willow from being sucked into a void and decides right away this ISN’T Ms. Calendar’s doing. Glad we had that plot point then.
More Juliet Landau acting silly as Drusilla while she, Spike, and Angel are scouting new hideouts. She tells Angel that the slayer is going to be ready for him. Spike, who has watched this show before, brushes this off as Angelus isn’t going to just kill her. Angelus uses Network TV Language to tell Spike he WILL kill the slayer, then come home and put his stake into Drusilla right in front of him. If you know what he is saying but isn’t allowed to actually say in this time slot!
A swarm of wasps kicks everyone out of the school, so they regroup elsewhere. Everyone realizes the kid who shot his lover needs forgiveness to move on… except Buffy, who despises the boy for killing someone. You know he was the minor in this situation, Buff, right? And his teacher was taking advantage of him? But no, she fucking HATES him. She goes back to the school, and the swarm just lets her in.
Oh, she is possessed now, I see. Angel shows up to get her, but he gets taken over by the spirit into playing its role, too.
ANOTHER mind-control / possession plot, hurray. These aren’t getting old AT ALL.
They go through the re-enactment, and she shoots Angel, causing the show to murder yet another up-and-coming ragdoll by hucking it off of a building. Buffy is about to kill herself (still possessed, that’s what the boy did after the murder), but a still-controlled Angel shows up and forgives her. The spirits leave their bodies! Angelus storms away, all pissy.
He returns to the new lair, and he and Dru decide to go out hunting. After they leave, Spike reveals to the viewer that he can stand after all! Oh man, I’m sure this will ultimately surprise no one, just like The Anointed and Angel’s own earlier heel turn! But the show wants ME to know. So I feel special!
All right, with the 1950’s behind us, the last thing I need is another Monster Of The Week, so hopefully we go back to, you know, THE PLOT.
It turns out that in addition to a mall, a nightclub, a shopping district, and a whole-ass residential area, SunnyDale also has an oceanic coast! Is this town supposed to be Springfield? It’s enormous!
There is a swim team victory celebration going on at the SunnyDale Coast, but Buffy, AS ALWAYS NOW, is moping to start the episode. A clearly evil dude with evil eyebrows and an evil chin starts hitting on her. He is Cameron, a member of the swim team.
The swim team start bullying Jonathan, a That Guy background character who just kind of shows up every few episodes. Buffy fights them off to save him. Hey, the Bully is Wentworth Miller, of Prison Break and Legends of Tomorrow fame! Nice! My wife, who I SWEAR watched several seasons of Prison Break, insists she does not recognize him. I want to call him Captain Cold all review, but his name is Gage, and that is easier.
Gage finds the eviscerated body of a swim teammate, and in the distance, we see a fucking Gillman? All right, cool. That is an underutilized monster threat, I guess.
At school some time later, Willow is STILL TEACHING, and SOMEONE in the union has to be unhappy about this, but given the SunnyDale situation, who the hell applies to teach here? They need all the instructors they can get.
The Principal comes in and goes bananas on her for failing Gage. So in addition to knowing there is a HellMouth and being up to something shady behind the scenes, he’s playing the cliche of “School Leader Who Bends Over Backwards For Athletes”? How many Bad Guy tropes can he have all of the sudden?
You know what? This is my fault.
In earlier reviews, I genuinely thought he was going to be a hero. This show, who wouldn’t know subtlety if… something… really… unsubtle happened… to it… hmmm.
Anyway, this show realized it was being far more coy than usual and just had this dude start ticking villainy boxes so its viewers don’t have to think about anything. Just point and go “Bad man is BAD”, all right? I get it.
Cameron drives Buffy to school the next day, boring her about how awesome he thinks the ocean is the whole drive. Buffy tries to leave, but he locks the doors on her and tries to forcibly kiss her. She clocks him right in the nose… and Principal is there to see that, of course.
This leads to a He Said / She Said in the nurse’s office, whereupon the swim coach and the Principal both blame Buffy’s clothes for what happened. You know what? I know the show is telling us they are the bad guy for saying that, but even then, how timely is that? We STILL struggle as a society with authority figures thinking what a girl looks like is the reason she gets attacked. You know that our schools are still filled with Neanderthals like this. Even this dumbass show back in 1998 knew only bad guys say that stuff.
In the library, Buffy is telling the gang and Giles about how she had to fend off a sexual assault that the leaders of her school blamed her for, and they are all BORED WITH HER STORY? Are you kidding me? I can’t tell if I’m more annoyed at the characters or the writers for writing them with such disconcern. But I AM annoyed.
Xander and Cam bump into each other in the hallway. Cam berates Xander, who can’t help but taunt him over his busted face. Cam says he is going to get some food; Xander replies that the cafeteria is closed. Cam says, “Not for me”.
So… hold up.
The implication here is that swim hero Cam can do what he likes… including get food when the cafeteria is closed.
Does that mean the cafeteria just has a spread laid out in case the swimmers ever pop in? Doesn’t that food, you know, get cold or go bad? Or was Cam going to cook his own meal in the cafeteria, at which point, why even bother?
What a weird line. I spent way too long considering what this meant. I really wanted to see Cam bust out some pre-packaged biscuits and gravy and start preparing a shitty cafeteria lunch for one person.
ALAS, it is not to be. Xander hears a scream and runs into the cafeteria to find the eaten remains of Cam… and then a Gillman lunges at him!
After the commercial break, Xander… is off describing the Gillman to Cordelia and Giles?
So the show just went “How do we get Xander away from the monster?”
“With a commercial break!”
“But HOW does he get away?”
“When the commercials happen!”
“Yes, but… physically, what does he do to survive?”
“The commercials save him!”
“… okay, yeah, that sounds like every other threat we have written before, actually, yeah.”
The gang puts together that the two kids eaten were the #1 and #2 swimmers on the team. Gage is #3 and is likely to be in danger!
Buffy stalks Gage at The Bronze for a bit before they talk. He thinks she is being an idiot and leaves. Angelus is outside and butters him up before biting, but he seems to think Gage’s blood is disgusting? Oh, Gage is the Gillman, I guess. Prison Break Guy, no! Make better choices!
Buffy thinks Angel spit out the blood because it had steroids in it? Why would a vampire care about that? How would that be different than feeding off a drunk person or a smoker or someone on heroin? But steroids are yucko wormo. Xander decides to join the swim team to keep an eye on things.
Until he, you know, just leaves Gage behind and all alone in the locker room. A Gillman attacks him! Buffy hears the scream and rushes in to see a wounded Gage and the monster. Gage then… turns into a Gillman? So Gillman is like zombies now? I hope not, because one of them bites Buffy in the ensuing brawl before they escape.
The team works out that the steroids the team is on are turning them into Gillmen. How did we land here? That isn’t what I thought was happening at all. Willow says “Why would people do steroids when you know what they can do to you?”. Oh, THIS is the Very Special Episode.
Xander finds out from his new teammates that the steroids are in the steam from the steam room. We see that the coach and nurse are in on it, but the nurse is having second thoughts. Coach pushes her through the person-sized sewer grate in the school (Wait, I thought there was an egg-laying monster den under the school). The Gillmen eat her.
Buffy interrogates the coach, and he got the formula from fleeing members of the fallen Soviet Union! Jesus Christ, show. He pulls a revolver on Buffy, and I’m sure the slayer could cover the three feet between them and save her skin, but she voluntarily crawls into the sewer. Coach tells her in Network TV Language that the Gillmen are going to rape her.
DAMN THOSE SOVIET BASTARDS!
Corelia and Xander head to the pool, but Xander has to use the potty. Cordelia then sees a Gillman come out of the bathroom, COMPLETELY FUCKING IGNORE HER, and just start fucking swimming laps. She thinks the fumes have turned Xander and promises to take care of him. He comes up behind her and reveals he is okay. It’s a DIFFERENT Gillman. Who could have attacked Xander. And could have attacked Cordy. But just… REALLY had to get a swim in instead.
Is that how Xander survived earlier? Cameron Gillman just wanted to go hit the pool?
Have we actually seen the Gillmen attack any… oh, the nurse, right, right. Okay.
In the library, GILES LOCKS THE ENTIRE SWIM TEAM IN LIBRARY JAIL. I love Library Jail.
Xander confronts the coach and rescues Buffy. Coach gets knocked into the sewer, and as they look on, Buffy tells Xander “Wow… those boys really love their coach”.
Is that Network TV Language for “We are actively watching Gillmen rape this dude”?
Off-screen, Giles just figures out a cure for the swim team. The Gillmen escape into the ocean because remember how much Cam talked about he loved the ocean before he turned? Hey, they DID telegraph that. Fair enough!
Well. I did not get any plot that episode. Two in a row this stretch. There can’t be much time left to get back to where we were heading.