I want to start out by saying that this was the very first episode of Buffy I ever watched. I think I watched it when it originally aired, which would have made me 13 years old (a couple months away from 14). I was babysitting at night and the kids were asleep and the people didn’t have blinds or curtains on their windows, so I was very aware that people could see in but I couldn’t see out. I was extremely creeped out.
I have to say that I think this is one of the episodes that holds up the absolute best and hits practically every emotional beat dead on. RIP John Ritter, you were pretty amazing. <3
So, jumping right into it, Buffy and the Scoobies are walking home and Xander and Willow are having a passionate debate about the Captain and Tenille. I had no idea who these people were when I was 13 years old and honest, here I am at 31 and I still only know the names so I have no stake in their fight. I’m sure it’s funnier if you know who they’re talking about.
There’s a mandatory line dropped to explain how the evil assassins are totally no longer a problem for… reasons and letting us know that Angel is healing up in his vampiric way and Buffy is taking care of him. The ways that vampires heal or get wounded is baffling to me but I guess in this case Dru probably took some of his life force or something? So probably he is weak? Who knows. I should probably not overthink it. The point is that it has been nice and quiet with Spike and Dru presumed dead, but obviously not.
But then Buffy’s door is not fully closed and her house is abnormally dark (apparently Buffy’s mom doesn’t believe in lights while on a date) and then she walks into her worst imaginable nightmare — her mother making out with a man.
Her mother is clearly very happy and desperately wants her to be happy. Her friends are all immediately hitting it off with him, and this is one of my favorite things in this episode. It feels like a betrayal to her that her friends (particularly Xander but even Willow to some extent) do not see what she sees. He seems like a nice guy, he’s getting Willow a computer thing, he’s making amazing food.
One of the most interesting thing about this to me is that this is actually a theme for Buffy. We’ll see it in several other episodes, most notably the evil roommate episode. No one believes her, she comes across like she’s just being crazy and is unhappy with her situation and is trying to turn it INTO something else because she’s unhappy. But that’s not what it is and the fact that no one
takes her seriously, that she’s treated like she’s crazy or being hysterical, these are always dangerous things that end up having truly negative consequences. She can’t necessarily put her finger on what’s wrong but she instinctively knows something is wrong. She keeps trying to put it aside when her friends attempt to (usually lovingly) tell her that maybe she’s just being crazy, but she’s not. She’s right and they should have taken her seriously. I think this is one of the most resonant things in this episode to me and it meant a lot when I was a teenager.
I also cannot even deal with how much John Ritter nails this role. Like everything he does is creepy and yet not SPECIFICALLY creepy (at least in front of other people). You can see how it could totally get a teenager’s hackles up and yet make a mother think she’s being unreasonable. His “little lady” and “sweethearts” are not earned, he doesn’t deserve to use them, and yet you can see how Joyce would think it was sweet. Honestly, I don’t think the drugged food is necessary.
Giles is having a really hard time not occasionally stalking Jenny apparently. Also
it has apparently only been 3 weeks since she sort-of half turned into a demon. Time is a strange thing in Buffy. I actually really love this scene of Giles checking to see if she’s okay and Jenny being upset that he’s “making her feel bad that she doesn’t feel better.” That really strikes me as legitimate… although a lot of her emotional beats are a little weird given that we know she’s a Romani spy. Giles sad face is heartbreakingly sad.
I also really like Buffy’s one scene with Angel in this episode. He lets her talk about Ted for quite a while, then gently leads her around to how her mom may need someone in her life. She feels better about it by the end of the conversation, understands what may be up. It actually seems like a very healthy interaction and it’s one of the only normal interactions we ever really see them have. I mean, she’s bandaging him at the time but whatever.
The miniature golf thing fascinates me because Ted’s turn into outright abusive is completely frightening. It still creeps me out. I cannot understand why no one else could hear him, but let’s ignore that. I remember particularly when I was young I was baffled as to why she didn’t just tell everyone right then immediately what he had just said! Why did she wait so long, why did she tell her mom like she did? But now it makes a lot more sense to me. She’s already feeling like no one’s taking her seriously, her word against his isn’t really going to stand up very well. Not to mention she’s frightened and caught off guard. She really does love her mom, she doesn’t want to hurt her. Her reluctance to finally tell her ends up coming across like it may not even be true and, although it’s a terrible mistake on Joyce’s part (that I suppose we can chalk up to drugs possibly…?), I could almost understand why she didn’t believe her.
It’s interesting to me to watch now because Buffy has so much “evidence”
throughout the episode and yet she doesn’t come forward with it. Why not tell her mom the truth? Tell her she went to his work, tell her that he’s telling everyone he’s taking off for their wedding in two months? Well, her mom just wrote her off. She’s isolated and frightened, she doesn’t feel safe or that she has enough to prove anything. Everything is wrong and off but he would probably have an explanation for it all. It’s a tremendous balance to achieve.
So she goes out looking for more vampires, hoping to find something she can actually fight. When she fails, she comes back and her nightmare is worse. Ted is in her room, in her space. He’s threatening her, he’ll expose her life, he’ll destroy her. When he hits her, Buffy feels vindicated, she can finally hit back. And in that moment, she kills him.
Now before I get into that, I want to mention a few confusing things I have about
this whole section. My first is how did Ted intend to explain the bruise or broken jaw Buffy would have? She didn’t have one because she’s the Slayer but I assume he didn’t really believe that and would have no way of knowing her capacities anyway. It seems sloppy. My second question is, at this point Joyce does not know that Buffy is the Slayer obviously. So how did she internally explain to herself the fact that her daughter performed martial arts and a tremendous amount of fighting prowess as she knocked Ted down the hall? She didn’t just walk out when he was at the top of the stairs, she saw the whole hall fight and it doesn’t make a lot of sense. I’m just saying.
As it is though, Buffy does not bruise. So it’s a little hard to prove that he brutally hit her in the jaw and it’s a bit of a thing to the cops as to why she might have killed him. Incidentally, I believe we will see this detective in later episodes? I mean, I guess Buffy ultimately gets off of murder charges because the body is missing and Joyce and Buffy both insist they saw him. That seems a little flimsy to me but on the other hand, this is Sunnydale and police work is probably a little different here.
Buffy is devastated by her taking of a human life and what I’m kind-of interested in is the fact that Ted was not human does not actually substantially change that. Like it does change it but it doesn’t change that she has the capacity for that, if that makes sense? I feel like it’s a darkness element that will stay with her and who knows, maybe it’s part of her reaction to when her and Faith accidentally kill a man. I also think it’s interesting that Giles makes a big deal about taking human life even though we absolutely know via end of Season 5 that he will be more than capable and with no regrets that we see. Although obviously that is different in the sense of him believing the world depends on it, it’s still a human life and he takes it pretty mercilessly.
Anyway. Giles is out patrolling when Jenny for some reason chooses THIS time
in the middle of the dark night to come apologize to him and they are attacked by a vampire. She accidentally shoots him with a crossbow, he is very badass and pulls it out of his back to stake the vampire and they go together to the hospital, laughing and being chummy again. I would really like to know what the Sunnydale hospital is like. I hate medical dramas but I would watch ALL of that one.
Buffy sits in her room, devastated in her overalls.
And then Ted arrives, ready to make things right, while the Scoobies put together the final pieces investigating his house. I mean, you know. The end is what it is. John Ritter has some AMAZING lines. Apparently Ted is a serial killer robot who thinks he’s going after the wife who left him. He just keeps killing them and putting them in his closet, which seems like not a sustainable plan and also why does no one ever look for these women or connect them? Does he get new jobs each time? Does he space them out? Do they all look similar to Joyce? Is there some kind of checklist? Regardless, none of that is really the point. He tries to take Joyce away but Buffy comes to save the day (while Joyce is conveniently unconscious) and uses his beloved cast iron skillet. He tells her he will not stand for this kind of malarkey in his house and she assures him this is not his house before exposing all his robot brains.
Buffy and her mom bond on the porch and talk about renting Thelma and Louise because it apparently has no horror and no men…. even though it definitely has both those things. It doesn’t have romance though, unless you count the two women. That is true.
Buffy wanders through the halls with her friends (including Cordelia, who is now just hanging out with them) explaining the details we haven’t gotten yet. And then, just as she’s about to go into the library she freaks out and runs away… and we see Giles and Jenny kissing. Awwwww…. grown-ups. Enjoy your very short-lived romance. Sigh.