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Stew’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer Retrospective: Season 1, Episodes 9 & 10

April 5, 2023 | Posted by Rob Stewart
Buffy The Vampire Slayer 1-09 Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 1, Episodes 9-10: “Xander Is The Worst”


Episode 9

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

As we near the end of season one, we are in the throes of some very important goings-on… like the SunnyDale High School Talent Show! We start off with more picking on Cordelia as we see her trying to sing, but being abjectly terrible at it. For some reason, Giles is hosting the talent show, and does this school not have any other teachers? He seems the least likely option. But it turns out that there is a new principal in town, Mr. Snyder, and he’s forcing Giles to do it.

Someone asks Buffy why she doesn’t try out for the show, and she says “Should I slay vampires on stage?”. I mean WHY NOT, Buffy? This town is full of idiots who just ignore everything they have seen so far. Hell, this right after you pull your classic “We left to fight a demon I MEAN NOT FIGHTING” to the new principal. God, the dialogue of this show. Mr. Snyder seems to hate Buffy and her friends in particular, so he is forcing them to be in the talent show.

One of the few things I think I know about this show off-hand is that the principal is evil, right? I thought it was interesting when the previous principal was such a goof that he could he end being evil, but he got eaten. So I guess THIS guy is the villain? Well it’s good that the show is letting us know right away. Though I’m hoping this guy gets off’ed, too, and there is a string of Principals Against The Dark Arts before we get to the actually nefarious version.

There is a ventriloquism act with a kid named Morgan and a puppet named Sid. Ventriloquism puppets are always evil according to, like, all the pop culture ever, so here’s our monster! Sid clearly has a different voice than Morgan, and he is making lewd comments at the high school girls.

Eventually, a dead girl’s body is found… and her heart is missing! That’s not vampire behavior! There are police and forensics officers in the school bagging evidence in front of the kids, and it’s ludicrous that this school year is still happening. In nine episodes, how many kids and teachers have died, been abducted, or been attacked? And, like, NO ONE CARES from episode to episode! Remember when Buffy cried because the science teacher who was nice to her got killed? I miss those days.

The gang goes around the school interviewing students and gathering clues, and you know what? More of this, please. It’s so much more interesting than “Bad thing happens. Giles reads a book and tells them what it is”. All of the clues seem to point to ventrilo-kid because OF COURSE THEY DO.

Buffy interviews Morgan herself, but Sid is surly and tries to creep her away. Morgan is having headaches while talking to Buffy. Hmm! A little while later, the duo spies Buffy breaking into Morgan’s locker. Sid notes to his puppeteer (or his puppet, I suppose) that he needs to kill Buffy to become whole again.

Buffy is attacked in her bed by Sid while she is sleeping, so she does what any monster-conquering Slayer would do: She screams until her mommy comes to help her, then has her mommy look under the bed for her. Holy shit, in a show full of The Worst Moments Ever, this was… yet another one of those. Momma Summers sucks, but Buffy just tried to offer her up to a murder doll!

Xander and Giles mercilessly ridicule Buffy for thinking Sid assailed her. EXCUSE ME, A FEW EPISODES AGO, HYENAS WERE HYPNOTIZING PEOPLE. Why is this so unbelievable? Xander taunts her about being attacked by a stray cat. As always: shut up, Xander.

In a classroom, Morgan just has Sid out sitting on his desk, and Sid openly turns to stare at Buffy. But no one notices in the Town Of Delusion in which these characters reside. Sick of the dummy snark, the teacher takes Sid from Morgan and locks him away. This causes Morgan to basically have a mini panic attack later in the day when he returns to reclaim his property… but Sid is gone!

But it turns out Xander just stole him to tease Buffy some more. After a few minutes, Xander loses sight of the dummy and suddenly everyone believes HIM that it’s alive. I wouldn’t trust Xander to tell me it was raining in Seattle, man. But everyone on this show is like “Oh, XANDER saw something? Must be true!”. He could still be 5 hyenas for all you know! Or 20% of a zookeeper. I forget where we landed on that.

Buffy finds Morgan’s body, and his brain has been removed! So Sid should have all the organs he needs to become whole again, right? Except… why didn’t he just take Morgan’s brain to begin with?

Well because Sid isn’t actually bad! In a turn I DID NOT SEE COMING, so all credit in the world to that, Sid is a demon hunter who thought Buffy was the demon attacking children and stealing their organs. After he comically buries Buffy under a fallen chandelier (seriously, this show is such a cartoon at times), they realize they are on the same side.

Sid was cursed into the doll’s body, you see, and he needs to vanquish the demon who placed him there to free himself. He is still a skeevy dude, though, so the inappropriate comments about underage girls were all him. They all think the real demon has everything he needs now, but it turns out that the monster has rejected Morgan’s brain because Morgan was suffering from brain cancer. Well shit, that’s dark. This poor kid was just out there trying to live his life and help his doll friend find and kill a demon, all while dealing with a fatal condition. We should have gotten seven seasons of Morgan The Demon Slayer instead of Buffy. What is SHE going through that is nearly as compelling? Her crippling friendship with Xander?

It turns out the demon is actually the kid in the show who can’t do magic tricks. He almost manages to kill Giles, but the gang saves him. Sid stabs the demon to save the day… thereby knowingly sacrificing himself as he is returned to his own body. His own long-dead body.

I really dug this one! With recent episodes giving us this very sharply done Sid turn and the principal getting eaten, it’s finally starting to feel like maybe this show can pull off things I hadn’t seen it capable of in the first six or seven outings. Keep it up!

Episode 10

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

The episode starts off with Buffy [poorly] fighting The Master in a dream. She wakes up screaming, and her mom comforts her. We quickly find out that Buffy has a dad! Like, I mean, she OBVIOUSLY has a dad, but he’s still alive and involved. Apparently she sees him on weekends? I guess? He is coming to get her this upcoming weekend.

In class, Buffy sees a young boy looking into their classroom, and suddenly another student named Wendell is overrun by spiders that pour forth from his textbook. The young boy tells Buffy “Sorry about that”.

Down in the sewers, The Master and his weirdo kid are talking about fear. The Master touches a giant cross he has hanging up (BUT WHY?), and mentions he is afraid of it. It burns his hand. Really just some absolutely gripping stuff here that doesn’t pay off at all in the rest of the episode, so I guess they just realized they were three minutes short of a full episode and filmed this to fill it all out.

The gang head to the library to see Giles, and he comes confusedly wandering out from behind some books acting weird. Willow mentions repeatedly that she is scared of spiders, so Xander teases her and notes he would be scared if Nazis came out of a textbook. I mean… yeah, sure. That’s oddly specific for 1997, though. It does admittedly work better in 2023, but I’m not giving the show credit for that.

They head off to talk to Wendell, and it turns out Wendell LOVES spiders! He used to have a colony of them until his brother absent-mindedly killed them all. Ever since then, he has had dreams of spiders attacking him in class. During this, Cordelia tells Buffy they have a history test, so the two of them head off to class. Buffy mentions she has never attended this class, nor has she read any of the book. And hey! This is a more relatable dream, right? I dream all of the time that I am still in college and have a test for a class I have never attended! And I’m always like “Why didn’t I go to that class?!”. I feel so seen, Buffy The Vampire Slayer!

A girl named Laura goes into the basement of the school to smoke, and the basement of SunnyDale High is Freddy Kreuger’s god damn boiler room. It’s creepy beyond all reason and has flaming furnaces. She is attacked by a big monster. WHY IS THIS SCHOOL YEAR STILL HAPPENING?

I can’t stress enough now much I hate the zero ramifications for everything and anything in this school. Student and teachers are getting attacked and often killed EN MASSE, and yet from episode to episode, everyone acts like nothing weird is happening. Why should I care what is going on if the show doesn’t?!

Buffy and Giles head to the hospital and talk to Laura. Why does no one think it’s odd that these people they only know from school are asking them for clues about their weird goings-on? I know I said I want more of this–and I do!–but it shouldn’t be this easy. She tells them a monster attacked her and said “Lucky Number 19” or something. On their way out, Buffy and Giles see the little boy Buffy saw earlier… in a coma in a hospital bed. His name is Billy.

Back at school, we sees that some greaser kids from the 1950’s have time traveled to SunnyDale High, so I suppose that is another supernatural problem. The mother of one of them runs up and starts smothering him in attention and kisses in front of his friends. Xander and Willow walk into class, and everyone starts laughing: Xander is suddenly standing there in only his underwear. Buffy checks in on Giles, who is having a fit because he can’t read anything. Buffy’s dad shows up and wants to talk to her. He sits her down on a park bench and tells her she is the reason he left her mom. He proceeds to call her dumb, rude, and selfish, and as he stands up he notes that he really wishes she had turned out differently.

Damn, Buffy The Vampire Slayer Episode 10, that is cold! I know it’s just another nightmare, but… damn!

After all of these occurrences, Willow puts together that everyone’s nightmares are coming true.

Buffy follows Ghost Billy into the school gymnasium and tries to talk to him, but they are attacked by what Billy calls “The Ugly Man”, a big dude with a club for an arm. And you know what, Billy? Your imagination sucks. “The Ugly Man”?, I feel like that could be the villain of most of the episodes of this show. If you are going to name you nightmare monster, try harder. “Look out, Buffy! We have to hide from Fuckface Turdstein!”.

Imagine being the actor with “Fuckface Turdstein” on your IMDb credits.

The rest of the gang decides to split up, with only Willow realizing that it’s a shit idea. She IMMEDIATELY goes to the Freddy Kreuger boiler room basement… and ends up in an opera. She’s up next and doesn’t know the words! Oh no!

Xander, meanwhile, walks into a torn up part of school covered in swastikas! OH MAN, DREAM NAZIS! That was my favorite Nightmare on Elm Street movie. Part 8: Dream Nazis. His nightmare even has Slightly-Changed-For-Copyright-Reasons music from Nightmare on Elm Street playing, wow. He sees a trail of candy bars on the ground and follows it. You know what? He’s not even being affected by the dream; this is just typical idiot Xander behavior.

Xander ends up being attacked by a clown, so I guess the swastikas were red herrings? Or he’s a Nazi clown! Oh man, like from Nightmare On Elm Street Part 12: Nazi Dream Clowns! He flees, comes across Willow and Giles, and then just one-punches the clown. Anti-climactic.

Buffy and Billy end up in a cemetery after fleeing from Fuckface Turdstein, and they are confronted by The Master. He starts burying Buffy alive, and god damn it, Buffy… you have a lot of nightmares.

The gang finds the cemetery and sees Buffy’s grave, with Giles noting that this is his nightmare. Buffy pulls herself out of the earth and is a vampire. ANOTHER nightmare of hers. Christ, girl, get some therapy.

They all head back to the hospital to try to rouse Billy from his coma, and the hospital is in chaos. EVERYONE’S nightmares are coming true now. The Ugly Man attacks, but Buffy The Vampire Slayer kicks his ass, allowing Ghost Billy to… fucking pull his face off like it’s a Scooby Doo episode? This ends all of the nightmares and wakes up Billy.

IT TURNS OUT that Billy muffed a catch in a little league game, so his coach beat him into a coma, HOLY FUCK! How does this show go from stupid and ridiculous to so fucking dark like we’re not all getting whiplash in the process? Anyway, Mike Rice goes to jail to end the episode.

It also turns out that if you wholesale rip-off A Nightmare On Elm Street in theme, visuals, and score, you can make a halfways decent first season episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Who’d have thought it?

Until next time… take care!