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BtVS rewatch : SEASON 1

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  • #76
    I agree with vampmog's critiques of this ep. It has a memorable moments and I really like the character-work for Giles. However, the ep is one of my least faves of S1. And a big part is that Owen is boring and I don't get why Buffy and Cordelia are so desperate for him. I do somewhat see how he's a type of Buffy's. He has a sad vulnerability that Buffy typically finds attractive and he seemed at first to offer Buffy some tantalizing normalcy. They have a big nothing in common- but in a strange way, Buffy kind of goes for romances where she doesn't have much in common with her mate and the physicality and big emotions mean more than the conversation and socializing. However, Buffy's pushiness for flat, dull Owen is a little OTT.

    I think it's very OOC for Cordelia to even be into Owen. The only way that I can make sense of it is that Cordelia just had some bad break-up with a guy who was the opposite of Owen- flashy, loud, jocular, athletic and Cordelia decided to radically go against her type by rebounding with Owen. Owen is mysterious enough and a blank-slate enough for Cordelia to project her issues and make loud speeches to her friends that she just wants a serious, adult boyfriend so she's into the cipher handsome Owen. I figured that could be Cordelia's rebound MO because I think Cordelia did a version of that by performing a very loud, desperate but rather inauthentic crush on not-Cordelia's-type Wesley because Cordelia was badly burned by the Xander break-up.

    Plus, the fanwank is somewhat amusing to me because a guy can become the high school latest stud-muffin by some ridiculous process like that where the guy didn't even do anything and was sitting there brooding and minding his own business but some popular person decided to smile on him and totally change his reputation for the popular person's own personal reasons. However, I usually don't like to explain facially bad writing with so much head canon. And I also have head-canon that Kevin was Cordelia's first boyfriend that she really liked and got emotionally involved with to up her angst in Prophecy Girl.

    I do find it interesting that this ep highlights that Cordelia and Buffy are into the same guys- Angel and Owen. It hammers home the "sisters with really different hair" element of their mirroring. Although, Willow was also kind of into Owen and Owen is more Willow's type than Cordelia's. However, Willow's kind of resigned herself to just observing Owen from the sidelines and cheering on Buffy's relationship with him without any rancor. For one, Willow is fixated on Xander as the only one for her. However, Willow can be moved from that with some attention from another guy- see The Harvest and IRYJ. Mainly, Willow just really doesn't think that a desirable guy who is the high school's apparent flavor of the month would ever look at her so she lives vicariously through Buffy.

    As I said before, Willow was on the outs socially but she's interested in everything so she observes people. Willow went to the Bronze to people-watch at the bar while eating raisins. And Owen's solitariness interested her so much that Willow stopped to time one of his brooding episodes for forty minutes. I mean, of course Willow could just sit in a public area in school and clock Owen for forty minutes pre-Buffy. It's not like Willow needed the time to study or complete her assignments and it's not like anyone in that public area would approach Willow for the whole forty minutes to start up a conversation.

    Buffy's presence gives Willow a girl-talk outlet to share her observations for the first time in forever. It somewhat mirrors her hacking. Willow was lonely but interested in the world and breaking barriers so she aimlessly hacked into government sites. When Buffy came to town, suddenly Willow's hacking had a purpose- Willow hacked to serve Buffy's mission. Similarly all of Willow's people-watching and absorption of town and school gossip now has a point because Buffy is the first person to really be interested in what Willow has to say and Buffy finds Willow's notes on people useful in socially and for slaying/mystery solving. It really underlies why Willow fell so hard as a friend for Buffy. Buffy turned Willow's solitary, lonely activities that Willow pursued because Willow didn't really have many friends or involved parents (hacking, people-watching) into a valuable way to girl-bond and activities necessary to save lives.

    This is one of my favorite Giles-lines ever:

    Giles: Alright, I-I'll just jump in my time machine, go back to the twelfth century and ask the vampires to postpone their ancient prophecy for a few days while you take in dinner and a show.
    Looking ahead, though, you'd think being the owner of the Magic Box would be an ideal career for Giles. It combines Giles's genuine interest in magic with most of the things that a grocer would do- own a business, buy the goods wholesale and stock them as he sees fit, interact with customers, have his own space, decorate and arrange the goods, etc. You would think that Giles found a way out of the limitations of being a Watcher to pursue Giles's ideal career that meshes his childhood wishes with his adult interest in magic. However, Giles left Sunnydale after Giles bought the Magic Box.

    I think Giles doesn't even really know what he wants out of life. He didn't get a chance to naturally evolve into a career that he'd want because he was slated to be a Watcher so he's a middle-aged man whose professional and identity growth has been stunted for years. His only ideal careers other than Watcher were his childhood careers- fighter pilot, grocer- because that's the last time that Giles really had the luxury of thinking about what he wants to do without the Watching burden hanging over him. Plus, Giles is a little stuck that his biggest genuine interests and passions (researching, fighting demons, magic) are all key to his resented duties or his shameful past. For guy who is constantly ballyhooed for his intelligence, Giles doesn't have a broad-ranging set of interests and he's not flexible about picking up new cultures and technology. When Giles rebelled against being a Watcher, he didn't run toward normalcy but instead ran to a magic gang. IMO, Giles is a little angry and frustrated that way. He resents that he was forced into Watching even though he pretty naturally likes Watching-type activities.

    I agree with Stoney and vampmogs that Xander took advantage of Buffy's trust to peek and his attempts to scare off Owen from dating Buffy were pretty selfish and rude.

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    • #77
      I just... don't know how there was a risk of Xander catching fleeting glimpses unless he's meant to have eyes in the back of his head. Buffy waited until he walked away the total other side of the room and had his back turned from her. The only danger there was of him seeing her was if he tried to take a peak which, frankly, shouldn't have been a "risk" but it is what it is. Evidently, they should have asked him to wait out in the hallway because clearly they gave him too much credit.

      I'm really not looking to enter a big debate out of this but I think it's pretty obvious Buffy cared otherwise she wouldn't have wanted him to turn away in the first place. I'm not going to blame her for having enough basic trust in Xander, her friend, that he'd keep his back turned and his eyes averted until she was dressed. Xander shouldn't have to be sent out of the room and I think it's a sorry state of affairs that we're pretty much saying Buffy shares the responsibility because she was comfortable enough around Xander not to think he'd be a perv, basically.

      - - - Updated - - -

      Great post Dipstick!

      I agree with you about Owen and not fully understanding what Buffy saw in him. You're right that Buffy doesn't necessarily have to have much in common with her major love interests and is oddly attracted to that but there's usually some other reason that brings them together. She identified with Angel's loneliness, his otherness, and I think she rather liked having a partner who she could slay and train with. Much is the same for Spike not to mention that they initially came together because of Buffy's trauma in S6 so there was a lot of reasons why she was attracted to him at the time. Even Riley, who I think she had by far the least in common with, was appealing to Buffy early on as being the anti-Angel so we have reasons for why she tried to invest in that relationship. But Owen? I don't get it. And maybe we're not meant to see it as anything but superficial (he's good looking and ~so deep) because Buffy gets over him pretty quickly and for all we know they'd have fizzled out in a couple of weeks anyway.

      I often think with Giles, and this may sound silly, that aside from all your points maybe he just really doesn't like living in America as well? It's pretty hard for any middle-aged man to emigrate to another country when he would have grown so accustom to his way of life back in England. And not just because his life in Sunnydale was quite humbled in comparison to the lavish estate he owns in the UK but because I think Giles probably missed the culture in the UK and mundane things the weather (Teacher's Pet etc). There's numerous jokes about how Giles doesn't fit in with American culture, the gang constantly point out how British he is as if it's an insult, and now and again Giles did some slight anti-American sentiments -- "Do you like my mask? Isn't it pretty it raises the dead! ... Americans" Giles probably just missed home as I'm sure a lot of men his age would. I certainly think that's a contributing factor along with Giles attempting to make friends with people his own age once he returned to the UK (Flooded).
      Last edited by vampmogs; 25-03-14, 01:56 PM.

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      • #78
        Originally posted by vampmogs View Post
        I just... don't know how there was a risk of Xander catching fleeting glimpses unless he's meant to have eyes in the back of his head. Buffy waited until he walked away the total other side of the room and had his back turned from her. The only danger there was of him seeing her was if he tried to take a peak which, frankly, shouldn't have been a "risk" but it is what it is. Evidently, they should have asked him to wait out in the hallway because clearly they gave him too much credit.
        It's the same as the difference between pregnancy/disease transmission from a condom vs. abstinence -- Buffy trips over a shoe or stepping into or out of an outfit, startled falls to the floor, Xander whirls in reaction and sees... a) something if he's in the room, b) nothing if he's not in the room. "One of the girls" or not, dating pool or not, token efforts toward propriety or not, if he's in the room, there is a risk of it. Anything can and will happen, not really a point in debating that fact.

        His intentional effort isn't the only way he could have, as demonstrated -- hell, just a casual glance at the mirror with no intent could have if it had been so angled, etc -- so while it was certainly not gentlemanly of him to consciously try, it is metaphysically impossible that him seeing Buffy in any state of undress would have been just beyond the pale of discomfort to her because... he was in the room at all. By comparison, take an instance from the movie -- a still mostly clothed Buffy reacts with indignation that Merrick is in the locker room because it is "a naked place". THAT is what it looks like, then, the idea that A even maybe possibly seeing some of B naked, whether by intent or accident, is just right out.

        The Xan-man is on a roll, though, with back to back episodes with very tangential <60 sec slices of episode getting a serious drill down in conversation. I like it.

        Originally posted by Stoney View Post
        I think that maybe it just illustrates how much she doesn't see his attraction/just sees him as a friend.
        Oh, I wouldn't believe for an instant that she didn't have his number pretty much from when he bent to help her police up her gear in "Welcome to the Hellmouth". She wasn't interested in more and took what a lot of people take, the passive road of just hoping the other party will never act on it.

        The can't date normal guys doesn't hold up at all from the episode though, agreed. It is clear with Willow/Xander that the truth can be managed. But Buffy isn't trying to dismiss Owen from the get go when he comes to talk to her the next day about going out again, at first she is really pleased it didn't put him off. The cut off point for her is when he is making it clear it was the rush he enjoyed and he suggests going out and picking fights. I think what they were trying to show that it is a world that not everyone can fit into and that it is difficult for Buffy to have the ease of relationships that others enjoy but it doesn't rule out ordinary. But yes, I would agree, it helps to set up for accepting Angel.
        It doesn't help that I don't think they really earn Owen suddenly being all care-bear stare crazy for a "rush" there in that scene, not when he'd been so reserved and internal in all the school scenes and so on. He was raised right, so he wanted to stand up for his date, but to suddenly hit TILT and want to go start fight club didn't feel like anything more than they needed to give Buffy an unqualified reason to send him packing.
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        • #79
          I'm pretty much with King on the basic problem of the episode being the false premise that Buffy can't date because guys she is gonna date are gonna be adrenaline junkies. Owen doesn't really display this tendency before the last scene where he talks about picking fights. I think it makes some sense with the limited information we have about Owen; his obsession with death ala Emily Dickinson very quickly becomes something of a death drive. But that is still very specific to Owen. If Owen were more like Oz, say, there wouldn't be any particular problem of him dating Buffy and getting in on things. Not that specifically an Oz/Buffy ship would work (I suspect not).

          I think that this episode's case against Buffy dating normal guys is about as strong as Witch's case against her cheerleading, which is to say, I think it makes sense that Buffy would give up on that particular dream/avenue as a result of this episode. In the case of Witch, Buffy didn't make the cheerleading team and that's that; no more opportunities until, I guess, the following year (though I forget if any cheerleaders were permanently injured during Marcie's assault in OOMOOS -- was Harmony a cheerleader?). By then, Buffy's lost interest. Similarly, Buffy doesn't really have any interest in dating non-Angel guys until season three with Scott, at which point this episode's arguments against dating normal guys are completely dropped (just as they've been dropped by the time Willow's trying to set Buffy up with a guy in IOHEFY).

          I do think that the episode shows why it's hard for Buffy to keep her dating life totally separate from her slaying life, though, and once that's accepted then there is a problem which the episode sort of addresses but doesn't quite 100%, which is: by exposing whoever she dates to the slaying world, she is going to be putting them in danger even if they're careful. This is, of course, the same issue that she faces with Xander and Willow, whether they're careful or not. However, with Xander and Willow, they've already shown that they really want into this fight, not just to be her friend, but because they think it's the right thing to do, and besides, Sunnydale is dangerous enough that it's better to be proactive against the forces of darkness rather than sit around and wait to be eaten. In addition to the purest and noblest of reasons, Xander wants to be a hero to feel manlier and Willow wants to have a chance to feel less powerless against larger-scale versions of the people who pick on her. Willow and Xander are atypical, as ultimately are Oz and Cordelia, and so the average guy Buffy wants to date probably won't want to participate in the slaying world, and if they do they might end up to be end-of-the-episode Owen-style adrenaline seekers.

          The bigger a part of her life slaying becomes, the more important it become for Buffy to have someone who can participate in that world as a romantic partner, which is why the major romances over the next few years are increasingly guys who can approach or match her in demonfighting, either vamps themselves like Angel and Spike, drug-enhanced humans like Riley, slayers like Satsu, or dudes with a lot of training like Wood or Dowling. Within the episode, Owen is something of a human version of Angel: he’s tall and brooding, serious and obsessed with death. He’s got a bit of a Riley thing going, and a Spike/William-esque love of poetry. I think within the episode, the emphasis on the brooding makes me think of Angel, though, and the Buffy/Cordelia conflict over Owen seems to predict their coming conflict over Angel, though after Halloween or so it’s kind of moot, with Angel purely focused on Buffy and then purely focused on Cordelia (and then on Buffy again and Cordelia again and Buffy again in AtS season five).

          Given the problem suggested by this episode itself, Xander does actually have a point at the episode's end when he says that what Buffy needs is a guy who already knows her secret and is still interested, because the problem posed by this episode is that the process of bringing someone into Buffy's world is a painful process, and the type of person who will want to join that world might not be the type of person she wants in there. However, Xander is off the menu for various reasons, including the fact that he is a peeping tom. I think criticism of Xander in this scene can be excessive, but I'm pretty close to where vampmogs is about it. I see the point that Buffy may have reasonably known that Xander would catch a glimpse of her naked, and I also don't really think Buffy cares all that much. In spite of the "just one of the girls!" dialogue in Witch, I also don't think Buffy is actually all that clueless about Xander's crush on her by this point -- particularly given his "and what kind of a girly name is Angel?" dialogue in Teacher's Pet -- and kind of doesn't mind the attention from him in general, even though she's not interested in a relationship and doesn't want to deal with him. I think she's not all that surprised that Xander does spy on her in the mirror, hence her non-reaction to it.

          I also think her non-reaction is precisely because he's so very far out of her sights as a dating prospect. When she undresses before Angel, she gushes later about how much he was a perfect gentleman and turned away (in a moment that I think is meant to contrast with this). When she thinks Angel read her diary, she flips out specifically because the diary is full of thoughts about A. Part of the contrast is that Xander is superficially the pervert and Angel superficially the gentleman, but Xander is really the braver of the two, a contrast which somewhat uncomfortably whitewashes the actual-jerky things Xander does. But I think Buffy's reaction here and also in The Pack goes down to her total lack of interest in Xander romantically. She "should" still call him on spying on her and whatnot, but she takes it as a fact of nature and doesn't really mind, perhaps because she senses that overall there is very little Xander can do to hurt her. That she doesn't really react to Xander's probably-spying suggests that she doesn't see it as bad as most of us do, which might have to do with her living in the late 1990's and also being used to guys ogling her as a cheerleader back at Hemery. But I think she also doesn't react because she doesn't really care. If it were a guy whom she had designs on dating, the breach of trust would affect their relationship, but Xander is just Xander and there's little she can do that she can't handle.

          I think the main mitigating factor for Xander's behaviour here -- both the spying and the attempt to derail the date by talking smack to Owen -- is that I think that not only is Xander very nearly powerless to affect Buffy's dating life at this point, but I think he suspects it deep down. That doesn't really make it okay, but...well, I think that matters. Lying and manipulating are bad things, but they become much worse when they actually have a significant impact. As long as one is nearly completely powerless, it almost doesn't matter what one does. I'm not a true consequentialist or anything like that, and the fact that Xander's attempted subversion of Buffy/Owen is not the reason they run into trouble isn't exactly why I think the damage is mitigated. But I think it works something along the converse of the Spider-Man tagline that with great power comes great responsibility. Xander's irresponsibility is in proportion to his powerlessness, at the moment; he is not applying much diligence to considering the moral weight of his actions because he has not had very much experience of his actions mattering. For Xander, and also Willow, part of the series arc is about recognizing that increased ability to affect the outside world comes with the responsibility to consider one's actions more carefully; in Xander's case he primarily comes into greater social power, and has to start watching his words and social actions more carefully.

          Willow's non-reaction to Xander's probable peeping-tom-ing has something to do with the complex mixture of feelings Willow has about Xander: she both idealizes him and seems unwilling to see his worst traits, and at the same time sees his weaknesses as so fundamental to his being that she just accepts them. This dynamic is something that I love most in, for example, The Replacement, where Willow is the only person to really interact with Insecure!Xander, and she is both entirely loving, happy to see him, and almost unconsciously dismissive ("that's not true! Sometimes we all help to save you!"). But anyway, even though Xander's behaviour toward Willow at this point in the story is less objectionable than his behaviour toward Buffy, his somewhat using her stings more because it has a greater impact, and Xander kind of should recognize that. I get a kick out of Willow getting really into pretending that she and Xander are actually dating later on in the episode, and she is kind of taking advantage of the situation, but Xander is the one who comes up with that cover story and The Pack suggests he does basically know that she has feelings for him. He also continues to talk to Willow about his woes about Buffy’s dating situation. I think if he really thought about how much this whole situation hurts Willow, he would stop, but Willow is letting him get away with it, and so he keeps doing it as long as he can and as long as she doesn’t put any pressure on him, or reveal sadness to him directly, to let it.

          We get another indication of Willow living vicariously through Buffy’s social life, and there’s something especially interesting here in that it seems that (aside from being, well, male) Owen might actually be something like Willow’s type. There is interest there: she clocked how long he could brood for at a time, and it seems as if, unlike Buffy, Willow has read Emily Dickinson. Certainly, I understand why Willow would be interested in Owen more than I understand why Cordelia would be, at least at this stage of Cordelia conversation. I guess we later find out from her interest in Wesley that she has a thing for bookish guys, and the Angel brooding makes some sense of that. But anyway, it never occurs to anyone that Willow could try asking Owen out, or that she, like Cordelia, could ever be a potential romantic rival for Buffy, nor does it really register to the characters in the story that the thing that Buffy is chasing so hard and has to sacrifice on the altar of her calling is something that is completely outside the sphere of Willow’s possibility. This is also the episode after Xander’s first date. One of the things that the show argues, here and in Witch and in other places, is that the things that Buffy has to give up are actually not things all teenagers do; they’re aspects of teenage life which were all Buffy’s, and which she took for granted, but are not actually universal by any means. Some people, like Snyder as Buffy points out in Becoming, go through all of high school without having a date. It’s still very noble for Buffy to give up one of the pleasures she’s enjoyed for her slaying, and to risk her life, and eventually she will be placed in the position of giving up her life entirely for it. It’s very noble. I just feel that Buffy also takes somewhat for granted the things she has the confidence to do which not everyone can. However, it is hard to articulate this without blaming Buffy for something she is not responsible for, the poor dating prospects of her friends. Hopefully I am making sense.

          Willow is the one who suggests they go follow Giles to help him. That Xander thinks Giles can handle himself, and Willow isn’t so sure, suggests maybe that Willow is able to see some of Giles’ vulnerability, something which comes up a lot in season two (especially I Only Have Eyes For You, where she tries to help him through his grief over Jenny). That the two take it upon themselves to go follow Giles and then save his life is, as vampmogs, really impressive, and I think it’s one of the early moments of those two being proactive, especially Willow who is the one who pushes for going to see Giles while Xander would rather not. Xander followed Buffy in The Harvest, but that was partly still about Buffy specifically, and Xander didn’t yet know entirely how far above his competence level Buffy was; Giles is an adult, and they are kind of taking it upon themselves to rescue and take care of him. It’s heroic, and it’s also a kind of heroism related specifically to their personal connections.

          I think this is probably the most Giles-heavy episode in season one; he acts as the heavy in the Buffy/Owen plot, trying to force Buffy out of frivolous pursuits like “her life,” and also acts as something of a lead on the vampire investigation plot, taking it upon himself to find the Anointed One until W&X have to go get Buffy in to rescue him. We get some of Giles’ stuffiness with a hint of snobbishness when he describes Emily Dickinson as quite good, for an American; before he had finished, Buffy immediately pounced and assumed he was going to finish “woman,” and it’s easy to forget that “for an American” is, considering that Buffy is both a woman and an American, almost as bad and disrespectful and parochial. His total disregard for Buffy’s life outside slaying and his general lack of praise for Buffy’s being out and saving lives all reflect badly on him. But we also see that Giles, ultimately, has a real courage and a dedication to the cause that goes beyond his

          Dipstick and vampmogs point out above how much Giles seems ill-at-ease in this world, both because he’s in a career he didn’t want and in a country he doesn’t want to live in. I think maybe that’s part of the clue to his dismissal of Emily Dickinson. Giles’ England-centricity is partly a function of the snobbishness associated with the Watchers’ Council (an institution not yet introduced), and it’s partly his defense against same: he pines for England because his job as Watcher forces him to be in the U.S., and he resents it. This reminds me of his early-s3 speech about not being invited to the Watchers’ retreat, where he idealizes the higher echelons of the Council and resents his place at the bottom of the organization. He actually resents the whole organization, but kind of wants to be a part of it. Similarly, he resents the fact that he can’t step outside his Watcher duties, but maybe doesn’t have anything else in his life. Somehow, I think he expects that Buffy *should* be as lonely and miserable, as duty-focused, as he is, because that’s how he ended up coping with the burden of his duty falling upon him. His harshness becomes more comprehensible once we recognize what he has given up for this job, even though it’s still less than Buffy will have to give up at the end of this year (though she’ll get it back). His speech at the very end to Buffy is one of the best moments for the character.

          The Anointed One is the season’s ultimate permanently-stuck-as-a-child metaphor. He will never grow up; he’s permanently on the child side of adolescence.

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          • #80
            Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
            It's the same as the difference between pregnancy/disease transmission from a condom vs. abstinence -- Buffy trips over a shoe or stepping into or out of an outfit, startled falls to the floor, Xander whirls in reaction and sees... a) something if he's in the room
            But the issue is that it wasn't a natural accident, it was an intentional break of her trust in the scenario that she had happily accepted him into. Just because if she fell over and he had turned around she wouldn't have been annoyed with him it is not then OK to take that level of glance as an acceptable gain he can have default when it is very clear that isn't what Buffy is intending/wanting.

            Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
            Oh, I wouldn't believe for an instant that she didn't have his number pretty much from when he bent to help her police up her gear in "Welcome to the Hellmouth". She wasn't interested in more and took what a lot of people take, the passive road of just hoping the other party will never act on it.
            I'd agree.

            It doesn't help that I don't think they really earn Owen suddenly being all care-bear stare crazy for a "rush" there in that scene, not when he'd been so reserved and internal in all the school scenes and so on. He was raised right, so he wanted to stand up for his date, but to suddenly hit TILT and want to go start fight club didn't feel like anything more than they needed to give Buffy an unqualified reason to send him packing.
            Yeah, even with him believing they scared off the big thuggish bloke, his sudden 'lets go pick a fight' is a big jump. But it is important to see that it isn't any normal guy that is the issue for Buffy, that isn't what they show. For Buffy it was the knowledge that the reactions of people to her complete reality, whether they could understand her calling or not, yet again means trying to compartmentalise to try and feel normal isn't realistic. The full truth of 'her' is always present, in that it can always intrude, can always interrupt even achieving the simplest smallest moment away from it and that hurts. Her reality is that she didn't even get through a date without slayer life butting in so it does become about it not being easy/straightforward for her. That doesn't mean normal guys are impossible but it does mean the reality spoils the fantasy of getting away from it and being the same as everyone else.
            Last edited by Stoney; 25-03-14, 04:05 PM.

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            • #81
              Originally posted by Local Maximum View Post
              I do think that the episode shows why it's hard for Buffy to keep her dating life totally separate from her slaying life, though, and once that's accepted then there is a problem which the episode sort of addresses but doesn't quite 100%, which is: by exposing whoever she dates to the slaying world, she is going to be putting them in danger even if they're careful. This is, of course, the same issue that she faces with Xander and Willow, whether they're careful or not. However, with Xander and Willow, they've already shown that they really want into this fight, not just to be her friend, but because they think it's the right thing to do, and besides, Sunnydale is dangerous enough that it's better to be proactive against the forces of darkness rather than sit around and wait to be eaten. In addition to the purest and noblest of reasons, Xander wants to be a hero to feel manlier and Willow wants to have a chance to feel less powerless against larger-scale versions of the people who pick on her. Willow and Xander are atypical, as ultimately are Oz and Cordelia, and so the average guy Buffy wants to date probably won't want to participate in the slaying world, and if they do they might end up to be end-of-the-episode Owen-style adrenaline seekers.
              Also, Willow's proven herself indispensable with her hacking and chemistry know-how. I think Buffy and Giles already see they can't efficiently mystery-solve without computer help. Giles seems to have made a choice to only do magic in cases of emergencies- so he doesn't provide locator spells or try to read minds or auras or magically break into lockers. Also, Giles has recognized that Sunnydale is a new flavor of dangerous- hellmouth dangers are emerging which means that lots of information is online in forums or city databases instead of in his big ole books. Already if Willow quit the gang, Buffy and Giles would have a pretty big problem. Owen can't fill such a specific niche. Xander's muscle help isn't as specific a niche as Willow's hacking and science know-how- but Xander comes as a package deal with Willow enough to get through the door to show off how necessary his muscle/mystery solving help can be.

              I also think her non-reaction is precisely because he's so very far out of her sights as a dating prospect. When she undresses before Angel, she gushes later about how much he was a perfect gentleman and turned away (in a moment that I think is meant to contrast with this). When she thinks Angel read her diary, she flips out specifically because the diary is full of thoughts about A.
              Great point. I do agree that Buffy didn't care enough to pick a fight with Xander because she's not that into Xander. However, Buffy will later somewhat consistently blow her stack when people spy on her and investigate her life behind her back- Xander in Revelations, Angel in Pangs/IWRY, Willow/Xander/Angel in Lie to Me. Buffy really cherishes her privacy. Buffy's not body-conscious and she knows that she allowed Xander to stay in her room so she kept her cool- but Xander is still treading on a big pet peeve of Buffy's. (Maybe he doesn't know yet how much Buffy cherishes privacy- but it should be a reasonable guess enough to not catch a peek at her naked.)

              Willow's non-reaction to Xander's probable peeping-tom-ing has something to do with the complex mixture of feelings Willow has about Xander: she both idealizes him and seems unwilling to see his worst traits, and at the same time sees his weaknesses as so fundamental to his being that she just accepts them. This dynamic is something that I love most in, for example, The Replacement, where Willow is the only person to really interact with Insecure!Xander, and she is both entirely loving, happy to see him, and almost unconsciously dismissive ("that's not true! Sometimes we all help to save you!"). But anyway, even though Xander's behaviour toward Willow at this point in the story is less objectionable than his behaviour toward Buffy, his somewhat using her stings more because it has a greater impact, and Xander kind of should recognize that.
              I agree. Although, interestingly, Willow does admonish Xander right in front of Owen for trying to derail the relationship and she admonishes Xander for not wanting to rescue Giles and instead, spy on the Buffy/Owen date. However, Willow had practical motives there to admonish Xander- to stop him from the poisoning the dating well for Buffy and to motivate Xander to help Giles. Willow didn't really have a motive to scold Xander for peeping- he saw what he saw and Willow didn't want to start a fight. I also think that Willow does have some clear-headed expectations of Xander. Willow was shocked and a little stroppy that Xander didn't want to do the protective, brave thing and follow Giles because Willow does think that Xander is brave and protective. However, Willow is also resigned that Xander is kind of a perv and he takes license with girls and makes comments about how he'd like to be invisible to guard the girl's locker room. It's the same paradox that I mentioned in Witch. Willow thinks Xander's belief that he and Buffy are almost dating is ridiculous but she thinks Xander is exactly the kind of awesome-sauce that could save Amy and Buffy.

              Willow is the one who suggests they go follow Giles to help him. That Xander thinks Giles can handle himself, and Willow isn’t so sure, suggests maybe that Willow is able to see some of Giles’ vulnerability, something which comes up a lot in season two (especially I Only Have Eyes For You, where she tries to help him through his grief over Jenny)
              Willow also moves through this ep like she and Giles really should be on the same page about everything and she verges on treating Giles like a peer. I love:

              Buffy: It's not that big a deal. It's just a bunch of people getting
              together.
              Willow: It's a very big deal!
              Buffy: It's not!
              Willow: It is. (spots Giles) Tell her!
              Giles: I'm afraid it's very big.
              Willow: (smiles at Buffy) Thank you! (turns back to Giles, confused) Wait!
              and

              Giles: My calculations are precise.
              Buffy: Nuh! They're bad calculations! Bad!
              Willow: Buffy has a really important date.
              The quotes are nutshell examples of how Willow flits back and forth between seeing Giles as a peer with like views and as a foreign mentor, as a friend and as a boss. Xander definitely and Buffy to a lesser extent partly face challenges in their relationship with Giles because they pidgeon-hole him into a specific and limiting role. Willow faces challenges in her relationship with Giles because she not sure what role he plays in her life and his stances on positions are so mysterious to her- hence, Willow thought Giles would care about Buffy's dating as much as she did. More examples on this will follow, but Willow treats the slayer/watcher bond as pretty integral and expects that Buffy and Giles value each other highly emotionally even when Buffy and Giles aren't moving in that direction and she gets a little annoyed with both when they don't operate according to that script. (See Innocence, Consequences, A New Man, Buffy vs. Dracula).

              Dipstick and vampmogs point out above how much Giles seems ill-at-ease in this world, both because he’s in a career he didn’t want and in a country he doesn’t want to live in. I think maybe that’s part of the clue to his dismissal of Emily Dickinson. Giles’s England-centricity is partly a function of the snobbishness associated with the Watchers’ Council (an institution not yet introduced), and it’s partly his defense against same: he pines for England because his job as Watcher forces him to be in the U.S., and he resents it. This reminds me of his early-s3 speech about not being invited to the Watchers’ retreat, where he idealizes the higher echelons of the Council and resents his place at the bottom of the organization. He actually resents the whole organization, but kind of wants to be a part of it. Similarly, he resents the fact that he can’t step outside his Watcher duties, but maybe doesn’t have anything else in his life. Somehow, I think he expects that Buffy *should* be as lonely and miserable, as duty-focused, as he is, because that’s how he ended up coping with the burden of his duty falling upon him. His harshness becomes more comprehensible once we recognize what he has given up for this job, even though it’s still less than Buffy will have to give up at the end of this year (though she’ll get it back). His speech at the very end to Buffy is one of the best moments for the character.
              Great thoughts. I really agree. I also think there's a culture in the Watcher's Council against the field Watcher because the field Watcher is at risk of "going native" since he's in another country and on the front lines. Vampires and demons are stateless and vampires change their human personas to become vampires. Thus, the Watcher's Council has a reactionary approach to guard against their people becoming stateless and rootless by heavily forcing exaggerations of Britishness. It is human to settle, to have firm allegiances to countries and culture, to be domestic, to forge strong bonds- and it's exactly what a field Watcher is discouraged from doing by practice and WC teaching. And the Watcher's Council doesn't trust the field Watcher because the field Watcher doesn't really belong to their organization anymore. The field Watcher has become rootless and changeable.

              Giles gives off a vibe that he's really resistant to allowing his adventure to change him. Some of that is because of the Watcher's Council's mistrust of their people being changed in the field. However, Giles also lived a whole life back in England and he's attained degrees and he learned hard lessons already from his experiences with dark magic and he really doesn't want to become someone else or do things differently. He arrive in Sunnydale as a pretty complete person. It explains his technology-phobias, his clinging to anti-American attitudes, how he checks himself and goes two steps back when he can feel himself getting too close to Buffy and assuming too much fatherly responsibility for her, etc.

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              • #82
                Never Kill A Boy On The First Date

                - Giles isn't impressed with Buffy's puns. He doesn't know that punning and beating vampires around is somewhat a coping mechanism for her.

                - "What do you want?" Giles demands. "A book," Owen replies. When will we see something similar to that again? I love how the writers throw in jokes about students not checking out books at the library to justify the many secret and uninterrupted Scooby meetings in the library.

                - I'm in love with the playful banter between Buffy and Giles. It's so adorably refreshing to watch their simple S1 relationship without the drama of the later seasons.

                - Giles: Oh, Emily Dickinson.

                Buffy: We're both fans.

                Giles: Yes, uh, she's quite a good poet, I mean for a... (takes Owen's
                library card)

                Buffy: A girl?

                Giles: For an American.

                Giles and Americans. A love/hate relationship throughout the seasons.

                - Everybody wonders why Owen is so popular among girls? Willow lays it all out here, "He hardly talks to anyone. He's solitary, mysterious... He
                can brood for forty minutes straight, I've clocked him." Doesn't that sound like Angel? A guy that both Buffy and Cordelia are attracted to?

                - I never realized how young NB looked in the scene where Owen invites Buffy on a second date. The Tweety watch never fails to make me go Awww! I thought that scene showed Xander in a more sympathetic light in his crush on Buffy than the majority. He was being helpful about the Owen situation when she was telling him how she left after seeing Owen dance with Cordelia. The sigh of angst and leaning against the lockers sure got my sympathy motors running. Poor Xander.

                - No wonder Owen was so excited about the funeral home and slaying in general. His life was so uneventful just like Emily Dickinson's. From his conversation with Buffy about why he likes ED's works with the loss and death. He wants some excitement in his life because he's very aware of how boring it is.

                - I have to admit I love Angel's sarcastic smirk when Owen shows up with a challenging glint in his eyes. I feel it's more David than Angel.

                - It's always adorable when Willow seizes the moment and takes whatever she can get – pretending to be Xander's date.

                - The most attractive thing about this episode has to be the Buffy/Giles relationship: they're just getting to know each other and I think this episode is the first to explore that. They have different priorities and their arguments are understandable and valid, and along the way we witness them compromising for the other ( Buffy when she missed her first date to accompany Giles to the cemetery, and then Giles when he stepped aside and let Buffy go on her date and went to the funeral home by himself ) and then that last talk where they shared and expressed feelings! I love them!
                Made by Trickyboxes
                Halfrek gives Spike the curse that will change his entire life. Teenage Dirtbag

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                • #83
                  The Pack: long-winded notes. Thanks to Dipstick for reading this ahead of time--I wanted to make sure it made sense.

                  Introduction

                  This is the first episode of the series that really made me think this would be something special. It’s got a lot of action and humour, but it’s mostly remarkable for how dark it gets. The episode ends with somewhat of a band-aid put on the fundamental issues raised here, mostly about the Buffy/Xander/Willow triangle and the dissolution of, if not the whole of the Willow/Xander friendship, but the closeness of their friendship, as a result of Buffy’s entry into their lives. It’s got a strong overall metaphor about painful high school cliques, and the first death of a recurring character—not counting Jesse, who did die in his second episode but still within only one story, being a two-parter. The day after I watched this episode I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I think Prophesy Girl is better, but The Pack is my pick for the first truly great episode of the series, and my second favourite in season one. Here is a rambling series of thoughts.

                  Before I begin, let's talk about Principal Flutie, whose death is a major event in the episode but which is a little unrelated to the themes I want to discuss (and indeed, is only indirectly connected to the main cast). I really, really didn’t see Flutie’s death coming. Flutie was not a hugely entertaining character, and had only been in three episodes before this one. But still, he was a recurring player, and as this show is wont to do, he is supplied a little humanity in this episode that goes beyond the satiric caricature the show had been painting, of the guy who wants to be both sensitive and stern and comes across as narrow-minded and a pushover. I love this dialogue he has with Buffy, for example:

                  See, the problem is you kids today have no school spirit. [...] Today it's all gangs and drugs and those movies on Showtime with the nudity. I don't have cable, I only heard. When I was your age we cared about the school's reputation and the football team's record, all that stuff! Of course, when I was your age I was surrounded by old guys telling me how much better things were when they were *my* age.
                  In the scene in which he’s eaten, the camera moves to a picture of Flutie, by himself, smiling, on his desk, while the sounds of him being eaten are on the soundtrack. It’s kind of a sick joke, kind of a touching grace note to the character, and it’s really quite sad. Who has a picture of themselves on their desk? Flutie dies, and there’s the sense that his life amounted to nothing; people are horrified by his death, but there is no one out there who will really miss him, no family. It may be that that exchange with Buffy was not only the last meaningful interaction he had with another person, but one of the most important ones for him in some time, as small, almost microscopic, as it was. It’s haunting and more than a little devastating. And I had thought this was going to be a kids’ show.

                  At the Zoo

                  We open at the zoo; Buffy is tired of this place—she’s seen it all before. Willow and Xander bound down, like a couple of kids, and Xander mentions that they saw the zebras mating. “It’s like the Heimlech—with stripes!” Willow exclaims. The first thing we hear about animals is that they have sex, but it’s described by Willow, as a child’s view of sex—it’s something that animals do, to be observed with a certain distance and amusement. Buffy’s unimpressed at first, but they convince her to enjoy it because they are missing out on school. This zoo trip, and Willow & Xander’s whole attitude, is rooted in childhood experiences; Buffy, who has one step in childhood and one in adulthood as a result of her slayer calling, is already pretty much over it. After meeting up with Buffy, Xander sees the opportunity to show off his macho-ness in saving a kid from being bullied. Once in there, after his small-scale heroic feat of violence put to good use, Xander is transformed, along with the rest of the kids, into animals, and suddenly animal behaviour is not so cute or distant.

                  Giles says that all men turn into morons because of testosterone, and the episode functions as an extended puberty metaphor, where boys become jerk teen boys, join up with other jerks, and run wild, as a simple matter of biology. This is made a particularly male thing, testosterone and all, but it’s both boys and girls who are transformed into hyenas in this episode, so I don’t think it’s meant to be just an episode about the perils of male-dom. This is a story about coming into adult-sized drives while still being too young to know quite how to control them. One possible response is to become like a wild animal, whose only (mild) loyalty is eventually to one’s pack. New hormones flooding the body, and the temptation for Xander is to give into them wholly, as we see here. Willow, defined so much at this stage especially by her innocence, softness, and intellect, is completely left behind; she’s not even worth smelling. The hyena is a great metaphor for Xander’s dark side because it’s a pack animal, and because of its laugh; Xander’s sense of humour becomes a weapon.

                  It turns out it’s not just the hyena-kids who see becoming a wild animal as the goal in life: the zookeeper desires to get the purity of the animal spirit inside him, to discard all semblance of (human) society, to cast off morality. Primals seem to view all (larger) society as just a façade to cover man’s real nature, as if people are not significantly different from the hyenas who have figured out how to mimic human speech in order to inflict greater damage. But it’s not just crazy people like the zookeeper who seem to believe this. The dodgeball game, under the supervision of the gym coach who gets increasingly excited as it goes on, quickly becomes an environment for the hyena kids to become creatures of pure malice and competition, and we see the veneer of civilization strip away, as first friendships die away in the service of the sides within the game (with Xander cruelly tossing the ball to hit Willow), and then eventually the mild restrictions of rules within the game disappearing as the hyena kids prey on the weak within their own team. Flutie even suggests that their school mascot pig, the one whom he cannot believe anyone would eat, is not cute, but a ferocious razorback, because the competitive spirit that is encouraged even by the softest of principals is one that emphasizes the animalistic fighting urge. And under the hyena possession influence, Xander accuses Buffy of liking dangerous guys, and links sex and violence when he says he knew she’d like it on top, in ways that remind me of the way Spike later declares, in Dead Things, that he’s never been with such an animal.

                  The thing is that humans have something that animals—or at least, not the vicious kind of animals that the zookeeper, the coach, and even Flutie in his Razorback!pig description, wherein he tries to foster school spirit (pack mentality) by drawing attention to the pig’s nonexistent ferocity, seem to value—don’t. Brains. And consciences. They’re getting stronger, Buffy says, but they’re getting dumber. When Buffy presents herself to the pack (and Xander, in particular), saying “You know what you want,” they can’t resist even though Buffy is probably leading them into a trap. The zookeeper stops being able to make even mildly rational plans (like getting away from the people attacking him) once he gets all the hyena spirits inside him. Giles and Willow are both able to figure out the zookeeper very, very quickly, even if he can overpower them physically. Buffy, who has the physical power (and sexual allure) and the brains and the heart, wins the day, as ever. And when he’s given a chance to get back to himself, ordinary teenage boy hormones or no, Xander makes the move to save Willow. And ultimately, the episode’s major events are bookended by these two moments: Xander saving the bullied kid from the pack of proto-hyenas in the teaser, triggering his transformation, and Xander saving Willow from the zookeeper, the Ur-hyena, at the end. He wanders throughout the episode when under an alien influence, and that alien influence reveals some true things about Xander and his dark side. But when back to himself, he’s more than just a hyena. He’s growing into a good man.

                  Buffy/Xander/Willow

                  Here’s my take on the Xander leg of the (Angel/)Buffy/Xander/Willow triangle in season one. Sorry if I’m repeating. Buffy is hot, and also strong. Xander wants to become a man, and sees Buffy’s love as the way to accomplish that. It’s not so much that he’s envisioning Buffy as a means to an end, as that his thing for Buffy (and other women more mature than he is, like Miss French) is intermingled with his desire to grow up. This is also intermingled with the hormones raging through him, the frustration that he isn’t having sex, the desire to be other than powerless through any means, and anger. Adulthood means sex, and increased responsibility, and the possibility of being heroic. It also means the possibility of being a big jerk. Buffy brings with her the awareness of the horrors of life—the demons and vampires which prey on everyday people, but people convince themselves not to see—and so another aspect of adulthood that Buffy is a herald of is this level of knowledge of the dangers the world includes, which even Xander and Willow, with upbringings as rough as they had (through abuse in Xander’s case, and neglect in Willow’s) were still largely protected from. Xander wants into that adult world; he wants to fight demons; he wants to be a hero. His attraction to Buffy and desire to be her partner (not just romantically, but in slaying) is a manifestation of that.

                  But there is a dark tinge to that, which is why his discovery, in this episode, of a new clique which also gives him the chance to be powerful and strong, and “grown up” in the sense of leaving childhood behind, without any of the goodness that Buffy offers. In a way, the new clique he gets into fills some of the same role that Buffy does right now, and we see some of the effect that this new group of people has on Xander: it makes him dismissive of Willow to the point of cruelty, and the sense of power and unity of being part of a group gives him licence to be mean to whoever is outside that group. I think that Xander’s position as an insider within the Scoobies does go to his head some of the time, but the biggest thing right now is his treatment of Willow. Both Xander and Willow, at different points in the episode, identify Buffy’s entry into Xander’s life as the reason that things have changed between Xander and Willow. Now that he’s decided to commit to the basest kind of growing up, he doesn’t need to see her pasty face ever again. Normal!Xander loves Willow and doesn’t actually want rid of her, but there is an element of the real Xander in hyena!Xander’s treatment of her, which I think is part of why it mostly strikes Willow as a natural consequence of Buffy’s entry into their lives.

                  Xander ignores Willow romantically for a few reasons, but I connect it, in a lot of ways, to their childhood friendship: for a long time, it was just the two of them (or, with Jesse, the three of them—but this episode largely discusses it as if it were the two of them), a small clique cut off from the rest of the world. Buffy is their guide to the adult world, and both want in, but Willow doesn’t want Buffy’s presence to damage the absolute tightness and closeness of her childhood bond with Xander. She hangs onto him because she loves him, and because for a while he was the main, maybe only person who gave her love-starved self any affection. I think it’s notable, too, that even though Xander doesn’t have in excess the traits that Willow will come to see as the only valuable things in herself—her intelligence and, later, her power—she loves him deeply, because, I think, of his goodness and his sense of humour, his…Xander-ness. But given that Willow will later in the series recognize that she prefers women, almost exclusively, I do think that Willow’s complete focus on her unrequited love for Xander is partly because it’s a little bit safe—because deep down she thinks Xander probably won’t return her affections, and she won’t have to make the terrifying leap into an adult relationship. She can see sex as something alien and weird (“like the Heimlech, with stripes!”) and fantasize about kissing without having to take the risks of it going beyond that. They can stay close friends with minor romantic overtones forever, ideally. It’s not that she isn’t attracted to Xander, because she is, but even when she is love-spell stricken and comes onto him sexually in Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered she relates her come-on to her and Xander’s long childhood history, as opposed to Buffy’s more grown-up seduction attempt there. A part of her wants to stay in the childhood dynamic of her and Xander against the world, even as she is glad to have Buffy lower herself (in Willow’s view) to hang out with them, and even as she jumps to join in with Buffy in the fight against demons and jumps at the chance to help Buffy enter what seems a grown-up relationship (whether it’s Owen or Angel).

                  And Xander…mostly does want that safe space of his bond with Willow to change. He doesn’t really recognize what he’s losing until much later on (in Becoming, when he asks who is he gonna call up at night, and talk about what they did all day?), though he still cares about her. I’ve talked a little about this before, but I think the reason is: Willow is (superficially, at least) weak; she won’t stand up for herself, and as we kind of see from this episode, he can, if he ever chooses to, run roughshod over her and hurt her badly. Even if he tries to hurt Buffy, with his strength magnified by hyena powers, he mostly doesn’t succeed because Buffy is indifferent to him.

                  When he starts getting mean, Willow looks at Xander’s behaviour and thinks it’s consistent with the other changes that have been going on with Xander. Buffy looks at it and knows something is off. Buffy ultimately is the one to see Xander’s transformation most clearly of anyone, partly because she’s the hero (duh) but also because she’s in a particular sweet spot of human interaction. Willow doesn’t see that he must be different because she’s too invested in him and how he feels about her to see clearly (and suspects too strongly that she is as worthless as he eventually says she is). Giles can’t see Xander’s transformation because he’s too distant from Xander to see him as an individual rather than an abstraction of How Teenage Boys Are. Buffy is neither overinvested nor underinvested, and is just invested enough.

                  He Tried His Hand at Felony Sexual Assault: on Buffy/Xander(/Willow)

                  A lot of discussion follows the Xander/Buffy fight in this scene, which Buffy later somewhat blithely refers to as an attempt at “felony sexual assault.” I do think that hyena!Xander was moving toward an attempted rape of Buffy. I think normal!Xander shouldn’t be held accountable for this because the hyena possession is something that was done to him, against his will, and over which he had increasingly little control. As if to underscore this point, as well as to tie into the episode’s themes about animal behaviour (making the link between the drives for food and for sex), Xander’s attempted assault on Buffy is interspersed with the other hyena kids eating Mr. Flutie alive. Xander was hit by the hyena whammy at the same time as them, and those kids may be bad, but I wouldn’t hold them responsible for cannibalism and murder.

                  That said, I think it does reveal something dark and possessive in his attachment to Buffy. It is not that the event itself is a crime that we should judge Xander for, but I think it accurately reflects thoughts that Xander really has, and which end up coming up again, such as when he responds to Buffy’s, er, rebuffing him in Prophesy Girl with the harsh “I guess a guy’s got to be undead to make time with you.” What I think is remarkable here is that I think hyena!Xander really believes that Buffy must be attracted to him and is holding back only out of some kind of power play, because the possibility that there exists anything besides power and animal magnetism doesn’t cross his mind; at this point, full of the hyena spirit, all that there is are hormones, and Buffy has them as much as he does, and if he is getting off on the violence how could she possibly not?

                  Xander’s accusation that Buffy likes dangerous guys, “like Angel,” is not answered directly in the text as far as its accuracy with respect to Buffy; I think it is very distorted, but there definitely is a reason Buffy is attracted to Angel and not Xander, and I don’t think Angel being older and dangerous is completely false. At this point, they don’t know that Angel’s a vampire, but they do know that Angel is older and mysterious. I think some of Xander’s assumption, here, is based on his seeing Jesse gain a huge amount of confidence by giving into the dark side. And I think it has something to do with himself. Buffy is not “dark”; she is good. But she is kind of dangerous, in that she can kill things, and she is sexy, and he absolutely prefers the girl who can kill things to the nerdy girl who can’t. There are echoes of Xander’s preference for Buffy over Willow in Buffy’s preference of Angel over Xander, though they are not the same, in part because of how skeevy Xander can behave in this first season.

                  As for Buffy’s relative lack of reaction to the assault, as I said in my quick comments on Never Kill a Boy on a First Date, I think it’s because Buffy doesn’t quite take Xander seriously enough for him to hurt her, at this stage. And, of course, Buffy knows that Xander is possessed by a hyena. She will eventually let Xander into her heart enough for his words to sting, though still not in a romantic context, but those words will sting because it’s really-Xander who says them. When she lets Angel into her heart and he becomes a monster, even though she intellectually can grasp that Angel has been transformed by the loss of the soul, she can’t maintain the composure she maintains here, with respect to Xander. She’s not totally unaffected—Xander points out that she’s scared, and that he can smell it on her—but I think she’s scared only in the moment, because of the physical confrontation, not because Xander is really getting through to her emotionally.

                  Where Buffy is very invested is in her compassion for Willow, which animates her to solve “the Xander problem” more than anything else, and suggests the way Willow functions for Buffy all throughout season one: her compassion for Willow is what leads to her choosing the losers over the cool kids and sends her back into action in Welcome to the Hellmouth and which eventually leads her to commit to going to her death in Prophesy Girl. This episode is another instance of that. Buffy does like Xander, and maybe even loves him as she drunkenly says in Witch, and she certainly will grow to love him if she doesn’t, but on some level he’s a package deal with Willow for Buffy, which I think is part of why she is able to emotionally armour herself so strongly against him at this point in the story.

                  In the Cage: on Willow/Xander(/Buffy)

                  I think of The Pack as a Willow episode as much as it is a Xander episode, maybe more so because Xander is not really himself the way Willow is. It is also a Buffy episode, but as we see from the “felony sexual assault” scene, Buffy is emotionally disconnected enough from Xander that he can’t really hurt her that much, the way he hurts Willow. I think it’s with her that the emotional core of the episode rests. I could talk about the look on Willow’s face when Xander tells her he dropped geometry, so he doesn’t have to see her pasty face again—by implication, that he has always despised her, and has always just used her for what she could do for him—but I don’t know what to add to AH’s performance. What I love most about it is Willow’s calm acceptance, though: there is something resigned about her reaction, that her heart is broken, but that she always expected this. She works hard to make herself useful to Xander, helping him with geometry, memorizing details about his life, monitoring his blood pressure, in the hopes that maybe she can hang onto him. But she also kind of thinks his leaving her is inevitable, partly because Xander doesn’t really seem to value her that much, and partly because she believes it’s inevitable that people will eventually get sick of her. “Why?” as Cordelia posed in The Harvest, “Because you’re boring.”

                  My favourite scene in the episode is the Willow-Xander scene in the library, where Xander is locked in the book cage. It gets at the themes I mentioned above about as directly as the episode gets, puts the somewhat on-the-nose (though still strongly done) metaphor of pack-mentality as mean-cliquiness on the backburner, and focuses in on Willow and Xander’s long history before the show began, for maybe the first time. Obviously it is not the first Willow-Xander scene in the series, but their other scenes are primarily establishing in nature (like their opening scene in Welcome to the Hellmouth) or scenes establishing their newfound role within the world of slaying (like their “it’s like we’ve got this big secret” scene in The Harvest) and reinforcing the Buffy/Willow/Xander triangle (a few scenes). This one they actually talk about what is happening to their relationship in the wake of Buffy’s entry, and what, ultimately, is going to continue to happen. This is what Buffy’s arrival looks like, to the people who aren’t Buffy.

                  Xander’s already been horribly cruel to Willow, but here he changes his tune. He’s still a hyena, and so all his actions are totally self-interested. But the fact that he raises all these points suggests to me that Xander has thought of them, and, more to the point, that Xander, if he took the time and effort to examine his relationship with Willow closely, would know that Willow has thought of them too. He lays out the problems with Buffy not only coming to town and invading their tiny little group, but becoming its leader, and Willow, because she’s right and also still in the glow of Buffy’s new arrival, defends Buffy on each one, until Xander gets to “Weren’t things just simpler when it was just you and me?” But he kinda sorta has a point, and the points he raises almost all come up again. That Xander sees Buffy’s all-purpose solution is to knock ’em out is something that will come up again and again, perhaps most memorably when Xander launches into a semi-righteous tirade against her for wanting to kill Anya in Selfless; that their lives didn’t need that much saving before Buffy arrives suggests the link between the slayer and her prey, the way monstrous eventually start gravitating toward the slayer, and that that makes the lives of those around her dangerous, something which gets examined in different ways over the years, including Cordelia’s eponymous Wish. (And it’s not purely wrong, though it’s not purely right either: Tara dies because Warren was gunning for Buffy, for instance.) Willow says she’s helping, and Xander counters that she’s doing what she’s told, suggesting in germ the issue of whether Willow has a right to work outside Buffy’s leadership.

                  It’s weird how it all works. The real Xander would tell Willow he doesn’t want to see her pasty face again, but he probably does get sick of her and get sick of her pining around him. He needs the hyena to get him to be that mean. The real Xander would never tell Willow he wishes things could go back to the way they were before, but I think he does kind of miss the simplicity of when it was the two of them, before Buffy, when he had no blonde goddess to impress, and they had no awareness of the things that go bump in the night and they seemed safe. As a hyena, he of course doesn’t want to return to that at all, but he’s able to manipulate Willow with those thoughts that I think Xander really had.

                  Xander hits all these points—his love for Willow and desire to return to a simpler time, his articulating criticisms of Buffy Willow maybe feels deep in her heart but doesn’t dare express, and so on—to wear Willow down, and convince her that he needs to get out of his cage to work on his problem. The idea, ultimately, is that Buffy is a despotic leader who knocked him out because she’s on a power trip, that Xander may be sick, but he’s still Xander, and he needs to do something rather than be locked away. If Xander were still more Xander than hyena, he would have a point; it is better to have the chance to work on saving oneself, whatever that would entail, rather than waiting around for Buffy to save them, and taking the chance that the window of time would close forever, and one’s last moments of selfhood are spent locked barely conscious in a cage. In the series overall I think the supporting characters get more and more opportunities to save themselves without needing Buffy to save them. Willow counters that she can’t let him out, but she softens: what if Xander’s right? And then comes my favourite moment: she says that she knows him better than Buffy does, that she wanted to know if it was really him. She approaches the cage, keys dangling, and the audience lets out a collective groan at her naïveté. He’s going to get the keys! Don’t be fooled! Haven’t you seen any horror movies? He says he wants her, clearly playing the seduction game, and she approaches, and he lunges, and she jumps back. “Now I know.”

                  As Oz later says, who is that girl?

                  This is a moment of seeing what it is that Willow can do, given enough space to exercise her gifts. Hyena!Xander is much stronger than her, and is able to betray her, harshly put her down, and attack her cruelly in a way that Willow cannot, or will not, do in return. She doesn’t get back at Xander by insulting him, because she cares about him and might not even know how to hurt him if she did want to. He is stronger and has no conscience. So how does Willow gain advantage? Like a good hacker, she cheats, finds holes in the code of social interaction. And like someone known for being a damsel, she uses her own status as helpless to find out the truth. Willow is using the show’s narrative to bolster herself, here: she is pretending to be the hapless victim, with keys lying within plain view, about to be exploited and tricked by the big bad hyena, and she uses that image to test Xander. This shows both a certain self-awareness of Willow’s that is on display throughout this episode; she knows how Xander sees her, that he deeply prefers Buffy to her, that he is somewhat exhausted of her. She also knows how helpless she appears to be, and even (maybe) how helpless she presents herself as. And she can use that to her advantage. She also knows herself enough to know that she can jump out of the way fast enough if he reaches for the keys. It’s a moment that shows of Willow’s intelligence, creativity, willingness to risk herself, and, finally, faith in Xander’s core goodness—all qualities which the hyenas lack, and qualities which the zookeeper would view as a corruption of humanity’s ostensible animal nature.

                  This action has some big benefit for Willow. She gets to turn the tables on him, and smiles excitedly that she has seen through him. It’s also a way of getting some of the same emotional distance that Buffy could maintain: now she can more easily ascribe his earlier cruel treatment of her to something wrong with him rather than something wrong with her. Mostly I think this action is done for Xander, though. As she says, she knows Xander better than Buffy does, and if Xander really isn’t as sick as Buffy thinks he is, maybe he really should be out of the cage, trying to help save himself, rather than patiently waiting for his self to disappear in the event Buffy can’t save him in time. She determines from Xander’s lunge for the keys that he is more hyena than Xander, and that there’s nothing else to do with him but watch over him, arm herself with more knowledge (watching hyena videos on repeat), and hope for the best.

                  It’s also a moment that suggests something heartbreaking. Willow believes that Xander would reject her, even cruelly, because on some level she thinks she deserves it. She’s been on some level expecting it for a long time, and thinks that Buffy’s presence was just the trigger for him to finally get sick and tired of her. But as much as she believes he might cruelly reject her, she doesn’t believe Xander would ever betray her like that. When she says “Now I know,” it’s not because he was mean to her—he was mean to her earlier in the episode, and she just accepted that was the way things were. It was that he was tricking her with intent to escape and harm her; he was outright lying to her for his advantage. She doesn’t have faith in herself, but she has faith in Xander, and while she correctly recognizes that he has a large capacity for cruelty, in the absence of hyena possession he wouldn’t actually do what he does here. I think this is something Willow has throughout the series: in Conversations with Dead People, for example, she has no doubt that Tara would believe, and tell her, that she is going to go power-mad and kill all her friends, because she is willing to believe that about herself. But she is not willing to believe Tara would urge her to kill herself—not because Willow doesn’t believe the First’s taunt that the world would be a better place if she killed herself (I think she does believe that, as she had expected Giles to kill her when she went with him to England and later asks Kennedy to kill her if she loses herself in Chosen), but because Tara would never ask her to kill herself.

                  I don’t think it’s a moment of unambiguous good, though I admire it much more than not. Still, she is, after all, taking a big risk here. What if she’s wrong, and miscalculates even a tiny bit? Then Xander grabs the keys, gets out, maybe kills her, maybe kills others. She’s also treating Xander to something like an experiment, albeit not a cruel one, which, if Xander “passes,” by not going for the keys, he doesn’t end up being tricked at all. I think it’s also an open question whether Xander not lunging for the keys would be sufficient to prove he’s not Xander, and whether Willow would have let him out; I suspect she would have, ultimately, though maybe she would have wanted to take more time with it to determine the truth. The action is classic Willow: brilliant, creative, heroic, compassionate, dangerous, reckless, potentially disastrous, all in a split-second.

                  Conclusion

                  Back to himself, Xander saves Willow, and order is restored within the Scooby gang. In order to maintain that order, Xander, like Willow did earlier, uses the conventions of this type of story to his advantage, selling a line about amnesiathat makes it possible to avoid confronting some of the things that came out during this week, as well as to avoid dealing with some of the things that he did while he was possessed (and, basically, roofied). These things are bigger than he can deal with, as they should be, because they were genuinely outside his control, and while I think Xander “should have” come clean and told the truth, I also understand why it’s too big for him to deal with at this stage of the game, and I don’t really blame him for that lie, nor Giles for supporting it.

                  I think in the end, this episode foreshadows the difficulties that Buffy’s introduction will end up meaning for Xander and Willow’s friendship; Xander’s chasing maturity, partly because of Buffy, partly because of the world of monsters she serves as a guide to, will lead him to some dark places, and even the less-dark places it leads him to will pretty much lead him away from Willow. Her hopes that the two of them can stay joined at the hip, or even take their friendship to the next level in a romantic way, will be continually dashed, and while he won’t be overtly cruel to her the way his hyena-possessed self is here, there will be big insensitivity in addition to some of the unavoidable things. But ultimately Buffy, Xander and Willow will come to some kind of balance as the years go on, and that Xander acts to save Willow here establishes that there is consolation in the end of their childhood relationship. These three are in it for the long haul.

                  Other Quick Notes

                  Buffy is immune to the bullies’ broad swipes, but when they go in close—mentioning that she got kicked out, and saying “she might beat you up,” she gets genuinely upset.

                  I didn’t talk about Giles much, because I wanted to focus in on Buffy/Willow/Xander. There’s a few things to note, but one small detail: while it certainly fits Giles-the-book-man, the fact that he suddenly comes out with the specific volume which deals with the particulars of demon possession is interesting in retrospect, given what we know about Eyghon. That the zookeeper seems to be a learned individual, an erudite intellectual, who geeks out with Giles over the books, and himself wants to become possessed by a demon suggests the ways in which even a Rupert Giles might be tempted.

                  Like Never Kill a Boy on a First Date, there are big, radical changes to the shooting script. There seem to be changes up to post-production: Buffy’s line that Xander’s idea of wooing isn’t a Yanni CD and a bottle of Chianti is clearly overdubbed. I wonder what she had said before. (“Bottle of Chianti” can’t not make me think of Hannibal Lecter and thus cannibalism, too, which is also appropriate to the episode.)

                  The library cage that houses hyena!Xander later houses wolf!Oz and vamp!Willow, meaning that it is pretty consistently the cage of the good guys’ dark sides. Locked up in the library: the rational part of them keeps the monster at bay. In the Wishverse, Giles, one of the few people who is unambiguously good in the Wishverse, gets locked in it, as if to emphasize how turvy-topsy a world that is.

                  I love the close-up on Xander’s face and ear when he listens in to Buffy and Willow’s conversation above at the end of the rock-power-walk scene.

                  Comment


                  • #84
                    Great post Max, your observations on Willow were brilliant. Willow's smarts in using her image to trick Xander is of course what she also did with Cordelia. Her status as nerd/study help allowed for the trick that Cordelia just followed the instruction to hit 'del'. It all fits again alongside the hidden identities (Giles/Buffy/Angel) or camouflage (Miss French/The Anointed One) we see and the process of growing up, becoming more and carving out who you want to be against who you are and how you are seen. I really liked what you raised about the uses of the library cage too.

                    Xander is a genuinely brave person. I am sure that there was an element of being assertive in front of Buffy in wanting to rescue Lance when no actual slaying is involved but I have little doubt that if Buffy hadn’t been there he would have gone in to help anyway. I struggle often with many aspects of Xander’s personality but I want to appreciate him more through this rewatch. So I wanted to give a specific nod to this because I think it is one of, if not his actual best quality.

                    Buffy accepts the point Willow is making about Xander’s interest in her having changed things somewhat. Without getting into it, she moves on because it “still doesn’t explain” why he is socialising with the others. Buffy is in quite a difficult position here being placed between her two new friends and their long standing friendship. Particularly when she knows that Willow harbours romantic notions towards Xander. I think it shows a great level of maturity that Buffy is able to form friendships that become so strong with them both around this situation.

                    I think you are right Max that Xander really does draw a link with growing up and Buffy’s entrance into their lives. That he consequently has a level of internal rejection towards Willow follows well. He relates Willow to childhood and doesn’t see her as a woman and so she is unable to make him feel like a man. Heck, it isn’t until he actually sees someone else viewing her as a woman that he is able to do the same. So Hyena!Xander becomes cruel to Willow and sexually aggressive towards Buffy.

                    I would also not hold Xander responsible for the attempted assault. I do think that it shows some underlying emotions that are real!Xander’s in his possessiveness towards Buffy and the stereotypical desire he has to assert himself in a position as a dominant male. In the same way that the souled vamps are given distinction, I feel sure that real!Xander wouldn’t have committed the assault even if he has any of these darker drives deep within himself. The potential to hurt is human, it isn’t the same as demon driven actions. It used to bother me hugely that Giles/Xander refer to his faux amnesia at the end in such a light-hearted manner but I noticed on this rewatch that Giles is not present when Buffy brings Xander into the library and says he tried to assault her. I understand Xander wanting to move past something that he never would have done if fully in control of himself and, as you say, not knowing where to even start to address it. Thinking now that Giles is unaware of what it is that Xander is wanting to forget (possibly just thinking it was the pig lunch) makes that aspect far better for me to look past. Particularly for consistency in Giles’ characterisation because I don’t think he would have just smiled that off in that way.

                    The power walk scene for me is perfect. The subtle differences in acting that create entirely different personas always really impresses me. But what I really like about that scene is the way that they flow around each other, it has a very predatory feel but the movement overall as a unit really does demonstrate 'the pack'. Equally the dodgeball scene was excellent, for all the reasons Max outlined.

                    Brilliant episode, I would agree one of the top ones of the season. The only negative thing that comes to mind is that the hyena was rubbish.
                    Last edited by Stoney; 29-03-14, 12:14 AM.

                    Comment


                    • #85
                      Great thoughts Max!

                      This episode does a great, great job depicting bullying and the pack mentality. Yeah it's a little on the nose but I feel it's so accurate that I really don't care. There's so many moments that just break my heart ("Which means I'll never have to look at your pasty face again" -- gut wrenching ) or make me genuinely uncomfortable (Xander throwing the dodge ball into Willow's back) and I think the episode is a great idea. The whole hyena mythology is a little awkward and it gets pretty silly by the end of the episode when the pack become almost completely animal, but for the most part I really enjoy it.

                      I like how this episode explores Buffy's power as a double-edged sword. Unlike Lance and even Willow, who the pack pick on, Buffy's reputation for being "really strong" and maybe even "part of a gang" (Out of Mind, Out of Sight) spares her from bearing the brunt of most of the pack's bullying. I also think it gives her the added confidence to stand up to them whereas Lance is obviously physically intimidated. But at the beginning of the episode the 'Wicked Monkeys' do gang up on Buffy and taunt her about her reputation ("Careful or she might beat you up") which clearly upsets Buffy. We'll see this touched on again in Go Fish when Dodd says Buffy "gives him the creeps" when she overpowers him to protect Jonathan.

                      I should start off by saying that Xander is first and foremost a victim in this episode. He was violated by the hyena spirit and that's the catalyst for his horrible behaviour. However, I do agree that it's more complex than simply blaming everything on the hyena as unlike, say, Cordelia/Jasmine, where Jasmine was literally in control of the body, the hyena possession seems to have merged with Xander's personality and brought out his darker impulses. Hyenas have little understanding of high school politics, they know nothing of Xander's crush on Buffy or his friendship with Willow, and don't have the foggiest clue of who Angel is. A lot of Xander's behaviour in this episode is reminiscent of Xander's less admirable qualities throughout this season, only greatly amplified. His possessiveness of Buffy, the way he walks over Willow, his resentment of Angel – that's all Xander. I even think that to some small degree Xander has this pack mentality in him or at the very least the capabilities of being a bit of a bully (telling the boy to “leave” in Prophecy Girl so he and Buffy can take his seat, yelling at Johnathan for daring to come into the high school library in Passion etc). Which is kind of the point? As Giles will say, all 16 year old boys will act like morons but they will, hopefully, grow out of it (and for the most part Xander really does). And Local Max, I love your observation that Xander's humor hides a lot of this bad behavior and how the episode depicts that with that laugh. Brilliant!

                      But it is also a distorted picture of Xander. Whilst the hyena spirit magnifies his darker traits it seems to drown out all of the positives as well. There's no sign of Xander's bravery, or the way he rushed to Lance's defence, or of course his love for Willow and his loyalty to her (the dodge ball scene heavily implies that they usually will not target each other in such games). And I'd be very, very surprised if Xander would be cruel to a pig or any animal – much less eat one alive.

                      The scenes of Xander attacking Buffy as the rest of the pack murder Principle Flutie are the darkest the show has gotten at this point. The way those scenes are cut and interwoven together is reminiscent of the show in later seasons and rather stand-out in comparison to most of the still campy and silly S1. I also think it erases any doubt that Xander has been well-aware of Willow's crush all along ("Until Willow stops kidding herself that I could settle for anyone but you") which does make a lot of his past behavior pretty inconsiderate.

                      I don't feel I have a lot to say about Willow that hasn't already been said. However, I do want to add that one of the things I like most about Willow and the Buffy/Willow friendship is how Willow never blames Buffy or grows resentful of Buffy for Xander's interest in her. And that really stands out to me in their scene together when Willow tearfully says to Buffy that Xander isn't picking on her and that "maybe three isn't company anymore." It'd be very easy for Willow to build resentment over all the times she has to hear Xander going on about his crush on Buffy and how Buffy "got in the way" of their potential romance (which is kinda true if you take The Wish into consideration) but she never does. Sure, this might partially be because she knows Buffy has no interest in Xander ("At least with you I knew he never had a shot") but I think it's just an example of a really healthy and positive female relationship. It makes the B/X/W triangle a little more bearable than most.

                      I have mixed feelings on Xander faking amnesia. On the one hand, he's a victim himself, and it must have been extremely traumatizing to have the memories of tearing an animal apart, being cruel to your friends, and trying to rape someone. To lose your agency and have a malevolent and foreign entity infect your body and influence your actions would be scary and very upsetting. Since he was possessed and by no fault of his own, I can't unequivocally say Xander should have to apologize for his behavior when he was, as Local Max says, essentially "roofied." However, since I think the Hyena spirit largely played on feelings and flaws already within Xander I do think that Xander's faux amnesia is a way of running away from his own personal demons rather than confronting them head on. No, he wouldn't ever attempt to assault Buffy and he's never this cruel towards Willow but the Hyena amplified those existing traits, and by choosing to ignore that Xander's really not making any headway in overcoming them. And he doesn't. In Prophecy Girl he'll be bitter towards Buffy and thoughtless to Willow's feelings.

                      I do think the better option would have been to come clean and admit he remembers everything, if not apologize. If not for his sake then for Willow and Buffy (who did have to deal with an attempted sexual assault) who are his friends and who are being very kind here by hand-waving all of his behavior as strictly being "not him." But those are standards I'm not necessarily going to blame Xander for not living up to given his own trauma. I have to cut him some major slack and there's really no consistency when it comes to characters apologizing for their actions under mystical influence. It varies a lot.

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                      • #86
                        Max, you did an awesome review. Your insights and thoughts (and analysis in general) pretty much cover everything I think is important about this episode, I don't think I have anything to add.

                        Just a few comments about the production:

                        This is such and awesome episode, probably marks the beginning of what would become a show far ahead to its time. The first five episodes made me think... "hmmm... this show was actually kind of scary". This one made me think "man! this show can really get scary!" Both because of the actual "horror sequences", and the forwardness to show actual "real life" horrors that can happen in society, with young people involved, and sometimes are ignored until the damage is done. Gave me the goosebumps, really.

                        Also, awesome camera perspectives and sound editing. The sequence when the kids get infected with the hyena spirit, when they show the drawing in the floor and the tribal sounds has a great effect. Also, many Willow's close-ups in this episode, with the lighting (or lack of lighting...) and her appearance, made me think of a Renaissance painting. At times she looks like one of the maidens da Vinci liked to paint. I don't know if it was intentional, but really got to me.
                        Last edited by Rihannon; 29-03-14, 06:36 AM.

                        Comment


                        • #87
                          Awesome posts, everybody- especially, Local_Max. Like Local_Max, this is my second favorite ep of S1 after Prophecy Girl. I'm not sure what I can add to everyone's detailed, thoughtful posts. (Damn my busy Thursday through Saturday morning! ) Just a few short points.

                          1.
                          Originally posted by vampmogs View Post
                          However, I do agree that it's more complex than simply blaming everything on the hyena as unlike, say, Cordelia/Jasmine, where Jasmine was literally in control of the body, the hyena possession seems to have merged with Xander's personality and brought out his darker impulses.
                          Maybe this is too AtS a discussion. I agree that Xander's Xanderness influenced the hyena's activities. However, I wouldn't say that Xander is more guilty for the hyena than Cordelia was for everything Cordevilia/Jasmine did. I argued on the AtS threads that, IMO, Jasmine influenced Cordelia to do evil to make her come into being regardless of the "real" Cordelia's conscience but Cordelia selected the extreme means (the Beast, seduce Connor, bring out Angelus) partly based on her own issues with her ego, resentments of the wealthy and powerful LA citizens, and sexuality. Certainly, Real!Xander was just trying to be a good guy to defend Lance and he walked into an infected building and that's why he was infected with the hyena spirit; Real!Cordelia was stupidly ego-tripping about how she's outgrown humanity with her superiority and should just abandon the world and her peeps and that's why she was infected with Jasmine's spirit. Based on that initial action, I consider Xander far less at fault for the hyena spirit even though fandom, definitely, gives Xander a harder time.

                          2.
                          I also think it erases any doubt that Xander has been well-aware of Willow's crush all along ("Until Willow stops kidding herself that I could settle for anyone but you") which does make a lot of his past behavior pretty inconsiderate.
                          IMO, one can logically read that Xander knew about Willow's crush from the beginning. However in my personal canon, Xander learned that Willow has a crush on him in this ep through his increased sensory powers and forthright awareness as a hyena. He likely smelled her attraction. When the camera shows Xander listening in on Buffy's and Willow's conversation with his new super-hearing, it implies that Xander is using his powers to learn new things about the dynamic. In past eps, Xander acted like he didn't know anything about Willow's crush. Going forward, eps heavily indicate that Xander does know about Willow's feelings (IRYJ, his reaction to Willow calling him out on taking advantage in Prophecy Girl, WSWB Inca Mummy Girl), but he's just decided to be insensitive about it.

                          However, I think those are the two sensible reads- he knew before The Pack or he learned in The Pack. I don't think one can make a convincing argument that he didn't know until....Innocence or whatever. But I've seen folks try!

                          3. Hyenas do have pretty bad qualities but they have somewhat unfairly gotten bad reputation. Hyenas, especially spotted hyenas, kill 95 percent of the food that they eat. They don't deserve their reputation as cowardly scavengers. Even though they're smaller, they drive lionesses and leopards away from their kills. Hyenas aren't really "shmoes". I'm no big fan of hyenas but they're pretty secretly brave and powerful. All of this is similar to Xander, especially in terms of fandom. I've read fan commentary or fanfiction that paint Xander as a coward or rather typically, as a verrrrrry ineffective warrior. It's another way that Xander can be related to hyenas- beyond the laugh that Local_Max cited.

                          4. I love the bit where Willow tutors Xander and AH ever so hesitantly moves like she's going to massage Xander's temples because he's complaining about a headache until Xander tosses the book. It's like Willow is debating whether such a massage would be a welcome act of friendship or it's too romantically forward. This is a dynamic in their relationship with is a particularly big thing in S3- the movable line between friendship touching and romantic touching.

                          The tutoring scene also indicates that Xander has thrown rude temper tantrums before while Willow's tutored him. Willow says with seemingly habitual patience, "We can finish this another time" and she says that they've been over why it's important to not flunk repeatedly. However, I can't see Willow ever lecturing Buffy in such vivid and patronizing terms that if Buffy doesn't shape up, she's going to be the aging loser in the pizza asking where the cool parties are. IMO, Willow increasingly gravitated to Buffy as her favored best friend over the series (especially in the high school years) partly because Buffy had a much more polite and attentive manner than Xander. However, there's also a dynamic where Willow is deferential to Buffy and lets Buffy get away with all kinds of stuff that Willow wouldn't brook for Xander because Buffy is a hero who deals with A Very Important (and Angsty) Destiny.

                          5. Buffy breaks some ground in this ep in terms of embracing her slayer role. Buffy jumps to the idea that there's something mystical affecting Xander. Buffy points out that Giles, of all people, was trying to Scully her, even though Giles was started out as the "something supernatural here to slay!" guy. On a more minor moment, Buffy wanted to continue training and she was admonishing herself for a sloppy round of roundhouse kicks while Giles wanted to stop. IMO, the last few eps have show the supernatural laying siege to all of Buffy's "safe things"- her friends, her dates, cheerleading. As Buffy commits more to her slayer role and once Buffy ruled out regular guys in the last ep, Angel comes to the fore as the likeliest suitor. This motors some of Xander's issues here and it's quite important to the next ep.

                          6. There should be a giftset comparing and contrast Giles's analysis of teenage boys.

                          Giles: Xander's taken to teasing the less fortunate?
                          GIF OF BAND CANDY GILES TEASING SNYDER
                          Giles: And, there's been a noticeable change in both clothing and demeanor?
                          GIF OF BAND CANDY GILES'S ATTIRE
                          Giles: And, well, otherwise all his spare time is spent lounging about with imbeciles.
                          GIF OF ETHAN RAYNE

                          As Local_Max said, the zookeeper worshiping the hyena and aiming to get infected by its spirit is very similar to Giles, Ethan and Co. worshiping chaos and aiming to get infected by Eyghon. The zoo keeper and Giles really do bond.

                          Zookeeper: Predatory act? Of course. That makes sense. Where did you
                          read that?

                          Giles: Do you have Sherman Jeffries' work on, on cults and on...

                          Buffy: (impatiently) Boys?

                          Giles: Sorry.
                          Buffy's use of an irritated "boys" is pretty funny. Unbeknownst to Buffy, Giles's past is related to the zookeeper's activities. However beyond that, even adult, scholarly, seemingly civilized men can develop a pack-like mentality that they're the Smartest Guys in the Room and close in ranks and even abuse everyone else to retain their standing. The Watchers are a classic example. The zookeeper and Giles are adults but evidently, they haven't completely grown out of a teenage boy's mentality of getting so caught up in their own pack's awesome that they'll self-centeredly focus on that instead of other people's lives at stake. Of course, the zookeeper REALLY hasn't grown out of anything. He's smart- but he's selfish, evil, violent, etc. Giles has grown out of his violent, selfish ways. However, the zookeeper is playing his part that he's just at rather benign and cutely and amusingly "to err is human" levels of Gilesesque self-centeredness.

                          While I did write above that hyena, especially spotted hyenas, have an unfairly deserved reputation as scavengers, the zookeeper does act intellectually like a scavenging hyena.

                          Giles: (notices the markings on the floor) Oh, right! The, uh, sacred circle. Yes, you'd need that to, um... This would be here when... when the children first came. Why would you... (figures it out, exhales) How terribly frustrating for you, that a bunch of school children could accomplish what you could not.

                          Zookeeper: It bothered me. But the power will be mine.
                          The pack of bullies and Xander were the ones who (accidentally) make the final break through on how to get the hyena spirit. The Scoobies were the ones that made the intellectual discovery that those students were affected by the hyena spirit and the zookeeper all about it. The zoo-keeper saw that information out there and scavenged after it instead of making his own breakthrough. However, it doesn't matter to the zookeeper that he didn't make the kill of having the breakthrough. The power will be his anyway- much like a scavenger wouldn't care that he didn't make the kill because the meat will be in his stomach anyway.

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                          • #88
                            Originally posted by Dipstick View Post
                            Maybe this is too AtS a discussion. I agree that Xander's Xanderness influenced the hyena's activities. However, I wouldn't say that Xander is more guilty for the hyena than Cordelia was for everything Cordevilia/Jasmine did. I argued on the AtS threads that, IMO, Jasmine influenced Cordelia to do evil to make her come into being regardless of the "real" Cordelia's conscience but Cordelia selected the extreme means (the Beast, seduce Connor, bring out Angelus) partly based on her own issues with her ego, resentments of the wealthy and powerful LA citizens, and sexuality. Certainly, Real!Xander was just trying to be a good guy to defend Lance and he walked into an infected building and that's why he was infected with the hyena spirit; Real!Cordelia was stupidly ego-tripping about how she's outgrown humanity with her superiority and should just abandon the world and her peeps and that's why she was infected with Jasmine's spirit. Based on that initial action, I consider Xander far less at fault for the hyena spirit even though fandom, definitely, gives Xander a harder time.
                            I think Jasmine works well as a commentary on Cordy's less admirable qualities, in the sense that they share similar characteristics, but metaphysically speaking I think Cordy was dormant and Jasmine was in full control of her body. Unlike the Hyena possession where I think it merged with Xander and was gradually taking over but hadn't fully, yet.

                            Though I think it's a fair point that Cordy's more responsible for her possession than Xander is. It was Cordy's hubris which led her to being manipulated in the first place whereas Xander was just trying to help Lance. I agree with you on that.

                            IMO, one can logically read that Xander knew about Willow's crush from the beginning. However in my personal canon, Xander learned that Willow has a crush on him in this ep through his increased sensory powers and forthright awareness as a hyena. He likely smelled her attraction. When the camera shows Xander listening in on Buffy's and Willow's conversation with his new super-hearing, it implies that Xander is using his powers to learn new things about the dynamic. In past eps, Xander acted like he didn't know anything about Willow's crush. Going forward, eps heavily indicate that Xander does know about Willow's feelings (IRYJ, his reaction to Willow calling him out on taking advantage in Prophecy Girl, WSWB Inca Mummy Girl), but he's just decided to be insensitive about it.

                            However, I think those are the two sensible reads- he knew before The Pack or he learned in The Pack. I don't think one can make a convincing argument that he didn't know until....Innocence or whatever. But I've seen folks try!
                            Another fair point and I can't see any flaws in your fanon. I tend to think that Willow's feelings were so obvious that Xander would have to be pretty oblivious not to pick on them, but I guess it's possible. I agree that there's just no way he didn't know after this episode though. Not only does he say it here but, as you say, it's talked about between Buffy and Xander in IRYJ as if it's common knowledge etc.

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                            • #89
                              Great thoughts all. I didn't have time to watch the episode but there are two things I needed to comment on:

                              Willow: I've known him my whole life, Buffy. (tears in her eyes) Well, we haven't always been close, but he's never... (exhales)
                              Headcanon: Willow and Xander have known each other all their lives and they used to be close - enter Jesse, and that goes to same-gender friendship. Xander and Jesse share the same interests and they've got their guy codes and all that, poor Willow became their third wheel. I think the Jesse period is when Xander and Willow stopped being close, and Willow's lack of feelings when she heard that Jesse died was probably because she was never close with Jesse.


                              Xander: I didn't do anything else, did I, around you guys or anything embarrassing?
                              I've always thought that Xander was testing the waters here, making sure that his actions while possessed didn't hurt his friends. Xander's bravery always shows when one of his friends is in danger, but when confronting anyone about his mistakes and fears, he becomes a scared little boy. It seems he wants to escape the unnecessary tension and awkwardness - since what happened wasn't his fault - and that's why he pretended to not remember, and the question here is just him trying to ease his guilt that his actions haven't hurt his friends and that they were still okay with him.
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                              • #90
                                The metaphor

                                "The Pack" is the second big "monsters are metaphors" episode, with "mean kids are like hyena" -- but also more deeply that high school, nay, that life is still the Serengeti. But this is the first Buffy episode that's metaphor has become something of a cultural artifact, because I think this episode doesn't get made in much the same way at all today. This story is very much constructed within the paradigm of bullying being one of the challenges of youth, and life, endemic, and not how it is presently -- and I am not sure beneficially -- treated today, as a social crisis to be addressed institutionally.

                                To wit, in "The Pack", all the problems are ultimately dealt with among and between students. Xander and Buffy both instinctively mean to intervene at the zoo themselves, not by appealing to Authority. Buffy literally stands up to the bullies herself, challenging them and leading them back. All the social pushback the hyenas get? By students (i.e. Buffy getting in Xander's face in Willow's defense, the threat of a well-deserved sock in the jaw implicit) or not by students (Lance's appeasement or the hot dog guy's passivity). The bullying behavior is very much a problem for the kids to face. As there is an arguable reason that it should be, because these sorts of power dynamics are often a young person's first real social adversity to face without moral context being provided by adults present, it may be the first they learn of cruelty or injustice but also the first they learn of valor and compassion as social motivators.

                                I almost find the episode subversive by today's bullying ethos -- that the right thing for a victim or bystander to do is to stand up for themselves or for the weak. Hell, are people even allowed to play dodgeball anymore?

                                Xander and Buffy

                                Xander's hyena-mind is pretty revealing here, obviously, but on this viewing and reading comments, it occurs to me they actually buried the lede about Angel here, because Xander's characterization of him as mean/dangerous is really unearned at this point. He can't be talking about the milquetoast Owen. Just projection of his observations and experience about the girls he has been attracted to but has no shot with, that they like *******s, and now he has the ******* mojo? Dunno.

                                As for what happened in the scene or offscreen... I still have a hard time believing he went very far beyond the rasslin' we saw, all because of Buffy's reaction and generally lack of trauma around him. Don't think he shoved his hand between her legs for instance. I think he might have groped her through her shirt -- that strikes the balance for me between something she could easily enough let go off under the amnesia thing but not so severe that it earns him anything other than a withering look in "Phases". I think, as Buffy would have always had a decisive physical advantage and she was just opting to try to talk him down, that she KO'd him pretty much the instant he did anything that even might seriously violate her.

                                I am so very glad that Buffy believed in Xander in this episode. Giles and Willow both just sort of wrote him off as being a newly declared douchebag, but it was the one who knew him ostensibly the least (Giles might have had some in incidental pre-Buffy exposure) who gave him the most credit, who knew the difference between a guy who would so assuredly offer to go back down a group of bullies from one who would join up with them.

                                Buffy and Willow

                                I really liked their dynamic in this episode, and it's enough to make me agree that sometimes the Bechdel test is unfair. For instance, Willow so sad about Xander's hostility, her frank was with Buffy about Xander's real attraction and the social dynamic between the three of them (which amounts to Willow likes Xander likes Buffy isn't interested and wouldn't do that to Willow anyway). Points to Aly for making Willow sound juuuuust a touch resentful of Buffy without being angry, jealous, or petty.

                                Also loved Buffy standing up for Willow, as noted.

                                Xander and Willow

                                I don't know what I can add that wasn't already said better, to be honest. It is an interesting study again of how much of Xander speaks to her in the library or how much is pure manipulation -- do he and Willow unconsciously resent Buffy and the dangerous reorientation of their lives? I do think Willow was falling for it -- I give her more credit for epic reflexes and common sense than for having her playing him, don't want to mistake the scene for the "Avengers" scene.

                                General observations -- I love the power walk to "Job's Eyes". Nick did such a great job looking like... well, like the whole school was his hunting ground, this calculation and indifference. He was BAMF.

                                The horror movie quality of killing Flutie was fantastic and I loved Giles' "they, ah, ate him", the revulsion in it. And everyone's relief Xander hadn't tasted manflesh that even Buffy seemed relieved he was trying to jump her bones instead.

                                One of the real standout episodes of Season 1, IMO.
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