Before B even has to ask, NO, IT IS NOT NORMAL for a high-school class to field-trip to the zoo, much less EVERY YEAR like Buffy’s old school allegedly did. That is weird and confusing.
The opening scene of this episode never fails to make me roll my eyes. The Bullies (do they even have names? Weird that I don’t know. I’m going to call them The Bullies from here on out) are so….over-the-top and cliche and ridiculous. I like how quickly Buffy retorts when they tease her, except when they mention her getting kicked out of school. Then she just sort of…shuts down. Which is understandable because she’s still very insecure about being Secret-Identity Gal and her expulsion is intricately related to that.
I mentioned in my “Teacher’s Pet” post that, especially in the early seasons, these monster-of-the-week episodes were usually metaphors for stuff high schoolers deal with. I think that “The Pack” does this pretty well, actually–despite the campiness of it. Or maybe due to the campiness of it. I like how this episode takes on the “pack mentality” of high schoolers, which is obvious right away as The Bullies start picking on a nerd named Lance. Obviously, it’s eventually taken to an extreme, but this is the Hellmouth, after all.
What I dislike is how “The Pack” explains the magicalness going on? Like, okay, a hyena looks at some kids and immediately possesses them and then they start eating things alive. Cool. I’ll get to that, though. While I think the magic (and consequent “twist” at the end) is really lame, it does allow us this hilarious close-up of Xander’s face.
After Xander and co. are possessed, there’s an adorable scene at the Bronze where Buffy and Willow talk about boys. I feel like we definitely don’t get enough scenes like this. It also really honestly HURTS me when Willow is upset, and this is, like, the only moment in this episode where she’s not upset. It’s quickly ruined by Xander entering the Bronze, acting super creepy, stealing Buffy’s croissant, and laughing as The Bullies taunt a fat kid.
There’s little doubt that Xander is acting strangely, but it’s not until gym class that things really start getting weird. (And before B asks: NO, it’s not normal for a high-school gym class to play dodgeball! I didn’t play dodgeball even once in high school gym.) I think for a scene done without any dialogue, this shows something’s wrong with Xander in a really interesting way. He throws the ball (HARD) at Willow, who looks so heartbroken as she leaves the floor that I just want to pull her to my bosom forever. Soon, Buffy is the only person left on her team, with The Bullies, Xander, and Lance on the other. Instead of getting Buffy out, The Bullies turn and throw their balls at the weaker opponent–Lance–which is actually kind of horrible to watch?
Ugh, and then Xander is mean and awful to Willow. 😦 😦 😦
And then they eat a piglet. HEY BUFFY-LOVERS, remember that time Xander eats a raw, squealing piglet? THAT HAPPENS HERE.
I wish I had a gif of the awesome use of slow-motion that’s used after the pig murder.
Anyway, THEN WILLOW CRIES. This is not the first nor the last time I will talk about how much my heart aches when Alyson Hannigan cries.
My favorite conversation of the episode is as follows:
Giles: Xander’s taken to teasing the less fortunate?
Giles: And there’s a noticeable change in both clothing and demeanor?
Giles: And otherwise all of his spare time is spent lounging about with imbeciles?
Buffy: It’s bad, isn’t it?
Giles: It’s devestating. He’s turned into a sixteen-year-old boy. Of course, you’ll have to kill him.
It’s actually super-endearing that Buffy knows something supernatural is going on with her friend. She gives Xander way more credit than Giles or I would. 😛 Also, this ep reminds me of “Teacher’s Pet,” because Buffy jumps to the conclusion that Xander and co. got possessed by hyenas. I mean, that seems to be a stretch….but whatever.
Shouldn’t Principal Flutie have called the police or something instead of calling The Bullies into his office? They ATE A LIVE PIG. Surely that involves something a bit more serious than a stern talking-to. And it gets him eaten. I always liked Principal Flutie, poor dear.
Ugh, and then there’s a super-uncomfortable scene where Xander tries to rape Buffy. And she takes WAY TOO LONG to punch him in the face, but I guess it’s to add to the *~*dramaz*~*. I am really glad that Buffy calls it “sexual assault” outright, though. That’s especially impressive and encouraging considering that this episode aired in 1997.So yeah, stuff happens, Buffy saves the day, the evil guy is put in his place (probably for meddling in tribal magics with all his white man privilege and whatnot), and Xander returns to his normal Xander-self without anyone holding anything against him. I said in one of my earliest reviews that my main issue with Xander is not the things he says/does, but the fact that no one holds him accountable for what he says/does. Yes, he was possessed and I’m not suggesting they should be angry at him (though I do wonder how much of his behavior–being unfair to Willow, being creepy/aggressively obsessed with Buffy–wasn’t already lurking beneath the surface). But at the very end, he pretends not to remember anything that happened, and Giles lets him. Giles knows he remembers everything, but they both pretend he doesn’t. That’s fucked up.