Movies & TV / Columns

Stew’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer Retrospective: Season 3, Episode 18

November 24, 2023 | Posted by Rob Stewart
Buffy the Vampire Slayer 3-18 Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

I Write A Haiku: A BTVS Retrospective, Season 3 Episode 18

FOR PREVIOUS BUFFY REVIEWS, CLICK HERE!

Episode 18

Buffy is out hunting! One of my two favorite ways this show opens! She is battling two fleshy monsters who don’t have mouths. Hey, is this that silent episode I hear so much about?! Neat! She kills one, but the other gets away. The dead one bleeds white-out for some reason? It absorbs into Buffy’s skin and vanishes, which is the opposite of what white-out is supposed to do.

At school, the team is talking about the Mayor’s plans. Hmmm. Awful lot of talking for a silent episode. They know jack-all about what the Mayor is planning or what his Ascension is. So between Giles’ books and Wesley’s connections to the council, they have NO INFO? That’s kind of a first, really. I like it, a budding mystery that can’t be researched away! Buffy repeatedly scratches her hand as if the opening close-up of the blood soaking into her wasn’t foreshadowing enough.

Buffy eventually talks to Giles about the hand, and they research these demons who apparently DON’T make this episode silent after all! Nuts. He believes the demon infected her with an aspect of itself. Buffy FLIPS OUT that she will turn evil and/or grow horns.

There is a basketball pep rally at the school for the team about to play in “The championships”. Regional? State? National? I don’t think they tell us. I doubt most Buffy writers were high school sports fanatics, so they might not have known there are levels to these things. And YES, that is my calling them dweebs! Look how cool I am. I run a website and a podcast, so I am the arbiter on all things popular, of course.

The school paper has an article about how all of the students are lemmings and pep rallies are bad or whatever. Willow notes that the paper has gotten weird as of late. Xander notices Wesley noticing Cordelia, and he just hates that. I hope Wesley stabs him to death. Or better yet, I hope Cordy stabs him to death. Just… please: someone stab Xander to death.

His betrayal of, and follow-up insolence regarding, Cordelia–and this show’s near-insistence that HE is the victim here–makes me hate Xander more than ever. STAB HIM, I command the 25 year old TV show!

Buffy ends up out hunting with Angel, STILL lamenting that she might become a monster. She also accuses him of having a thing for Faith and JESUS H. CHRIST, GIRL. Why do these writers hate us? He swears to protect her and states that he loves her. That placates her FOR NOW.

Willow, Xander, and Oz are at school the next day discussing the thrilling goings-on of the basketball game from the previous night… which was not plot-forward enough for the show to show us. They mention star player Logan Martin for the second time, so I make note of that, but DON’T WORRY: nothing comes of this character. Buffy is sad she missed the game due to patrol. Xander is STILL jealous over Cordelia.

And then Buffy goes all Professor X and starts hearing everyone’s thoughts! Giles realizes this is why the fleshy demons did not have mouths, so this must be the aspect she has taken from it. She is very excited for this, but Giles is more skeptical of its beneficial nature.

We see Buffy in class answering really insightful questions by cheating and peeking into the teacher’s mind. There is a girl named Nancy who is annoyed by this, and an obnoxious kid named Freddie who is the newspaper writer.

OH HEY: remember several episodes ago when Buffy bailed on the Chemistry test she NEEDED to pass to graduate so she could go kill a dude with Faith? And I noted I hoped the show would resolve that plotline?

Guess what the show has not yet done.

But hey, she is cheating on questions about Othello. So I guess that’s good enough?

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

Buffy, with her newfound ability to invade peoples’ most sacred and private space–their actual fucking INNER THOUGHTS–visits Angel and starts asking questions about Faith. I wrote a haiku about this next part because it makes as much sense as the explanation we get.

Thoughts Are Like Mirrors

Vampires’ Do Not Reflect

Can’t Read Them? Stupid.

And yes, I Googled “How many syllables is mirror”, because I 100% pronounce that word as “meer” because I have the lazy mouth. Do you say Mirr-Or? Or Meer? Please don’t just let this be my being a bad speaker.

Buffy is back with the team, and Xander is thinking about sex. Which, honestly? I’m just glad Buffy can’t SEE thoughts. So this is FINE. He runs out of the room in embarrassed horror. Buffy then hears Wesley thinking about Cordelia. Willow gets upset about all of this unintentional mind reading and leaves. Hilariously, all of Cordelia’s thoughts are exactly what she immediately says aloud anyway. Her reign as Best Character remains uncontested.

We get a students’ thoughts montage as Buffy walks through the hallways. She makes it to lunch, and the mind-reading goes out of control. She hears a sinister voice say that tomorrow everyone will be dead, but passes out trying to pinpoint it.

Buffy tells the team what she heard, and the team plans an investigation into the matter. Giles takes Buffy home, and she “hears” him worry she will go insane if they can’t cure this condition. So… how do the fleshy demons do it? Or are they just already insane, I guess?

Giles has discovered a man in Ecuador had this same thing happen to him, and he went off the deep end and has been locked in isolation for years.

OKAY, SO.

During the next scene, the team makes light of school shootings, and off-handedly remarks that there are a bunch of them these days. Just a very casual “Oh, those whacky school shootings” discussion. And I, knowing what year this season was initially aired, thought “They can’t POSSIBLY be just no-selling Columbine, right?”. So I did some research!

This episode was filmed before Columbine and SET TO AIR one week AFTER the infamous tragedy. WOW. That’s crazy.

It was held off for almost half a year before it ever did make it to TV.

Regardless, researching that gave me much relief. And thankfully, after 1999, the United States jumped into action and fixed school shootings and there was never another one ever again.

(That’s less believable than vampires and ascending Mayors, who am I kidding)

Buffy is in bed, feeling very unwell. Mom comes to talk to her, and Buffy finds out that Mom and Giles had sex (Twice! On the hood of a car!). So was mom ACTIVELY THINKING THAT at that moment? Damn, horny cougars in your area are looking for love, SunnyDale!

The team starts questioning students. We see Freddie the newspaper writer hiding from them. Cordy just straight-up asks a teacher, “Do you plan on killing everyone? I need to know for the yearbook”.

NEVER CHANGE, CORDELIA.

Xander is talking to Larry, who is out and super happy now! He points Xander in Freddie’s direction as a suspect, possibly because he saw him venting to Med Bay.

Giles and Wesley need the heart of the second demon to cure Buffy. Everything in this show is so damned convenient. What if fleshy demons rolled solo? THEN WHAT, WRITERS? But they were a pair, so… easily resolved! We cut to Angel brawling with Fleshy #2. It runs away from him.

And then he just shows up to Buffy’s bedside with the potion anyway. What the heck, show? The last we saw, it fled from him! Then he appears at her house like “Yo, got the potion you need, babe”.

HEADCANON: Buffy was exaggerating her pain and the ability to mind-read, so Angel, after the other demon escaped, just used some Baby Tylenol as a placebo and hoped for the best.

The geeky background character Jonothan is at school, and we see he is in the belltower putting together a rifle. So the newspaper guy was a FRED HERRING!

A FRED HERRING!

GET IT!? BECAUSE HIS NAME IS FRED[die]!

Holy shit, you guys, that’s the high quality Buffy The Vampire Slayer snark I know you’ve come to expect here.

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

Buffy just says “screw it” and uses her powers in full view of everyone to climb and leap hey way into the belfry before Jonothan could hurt anymore.

I don’t WANT to make fun of this next part, but I WILL. After an initial miscommunication, we find out that Jonothan isn’t there to kill his classmates. He is there to kill himself. And OBVIOUSLY he needed a tall vantage point and a high-powered rifle that he had to assemble over the course of several drama-building minutes to do that. So this is another case of BTVS Gonna BTVS.

But seriously–actually and honestly seriously–mental health is a VERY serious and complicated issue that affects millions of people across the nation and the around the globe. If you are having a hard time or dark thoughts, PLEASE reach out and talk to someone. You matter more than you know, and people care about you.

And if you are having thoughts of suicide and live in the United States, text or call 988. It’s the most important thing you can do for yourself and everyone that knows you.

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled Shirtless Angel jokes.

With Jonothan in the clear, Xander wanders upon the lunchlady pouring rat poison into the day’s gruel. Buffy beats her up to save the day.

I feel like a solid 33% of the thoughts I have watching this show are “Sure, that might as well happen”. Lunchlady trying to kill all the kids with poison AT THE SAME TIME as Jonothan’s suicide ideation AT THE SAME TIME as Fred Herring going off the rails with the newspaper?

Sure.

That all might as well happen.

Aside from that, well… aside from a LOT of this episode, the Jonothan stuff was surprisingly poignant. They built this character up really well as a background kid who is always getting ridiculed or bullied. He generally is having a really hard go of it in high school. Buffy gives him a “Everybody Has It Hard, Kid. Buck Up!” speech, but that’s before she fully realizes his intents are non-murderous. Then she is more sympathetic.

In the wake of helping him out, she does seem to care for him and his issues. Though she mocks Giles for saying she should go to prom with him. Might not have needed that.

But I dug the rest of his arc here. One of the better episodes of the series to this point.

Even if it wasn’t silent.