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Stew’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer Retrospective: Season 4, Episodes 3 – 4

December 22, 2023 | Posted by Rob Stewart
Buffy the Vampire Slayer 4-03 Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

Parker Abrams Can’t Lose: A BTVS Retrospective, S4 E3-4

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Episode 3

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

We start off in The Bronze, with Willow and Buffy watching Oz’ band play. The two of them start discussing the Parker character that Buffy met previously while trying to avoid Cathy. They use Network TV Language to insinuate that Buffy sure would like to take him to bed.

Also what I just did is also Network TV Language.

Sex. She wants to sex him. Sex him up. Have sex with him. She would like for Parker to put his penis into at least one of the open holes she has on her body.

At LEAST one of them.

I… may be extrapolating too much now.

Parker comes (BUT NOT YET! POW! SEX JOKES!) in and talks to them, then he walks Buffy back to her dorm.

After the show, Willow is helping Oz load up his equipment (BUT NOT YET! POW! DID IT AGAIN!) into his van. A blonde haired girl apparently named Harmony who I am supposed to remember as a high school classmate of theirs approaches and vamps out. She bites Willow, but Oz runs Harmony off with a cross.

I don’t… I don’t know who this girl is. But the show expects me to, and that isn’t fair.

Elsewhere, Buffy and Parker are chatting, and it dawns on me that he is Sam’s Choice brand 1999 Jared Leto. Too bad we never got this guy as Morbius, am I right? He notices the scar from where Angel fed on her, and Buffy keenly blames it on a puppy. Parker notes his dad passed away last year. Buffy randomly brings up that she drowned one time, and don’t worry: that didn’t make any sense in the context of their talk, either. Parker invites her to a party.

Xander has a job helping Giles shelve and store his books. Remember: GILES HIMSELF IS UNEMPLOYED. Anya shows up and wants to talk to Xander. She immediately asks what their relationship status is, leading to Xander Xandering everything up and being a jerk to her. She notes she is obsessed with him but does not know why.

Elsewhere, we see who Harmony’s mystery boyfriend is: Spike! He and his gang (WAIT! The last time we saw him… you know what? Nevermind. I don’t want to care anymore about continuity in this show than the writers do) are in the sewers tunneling away. He doesn’t seem particularly happy with Harmony. He tells her to go feed on a guy hanging on the wall, but she won’t do it; she wants to go out and party.

Hey, remember how vampires AREN’T the person that was turned? And how they are actually a demon that has taken over a body without a soul? Well what strange luck that Harmony’s demon is a vapid, self-obsessed airhead, too! It sure saves the writers a lot of time that way!

Buffy and Parker just bump into Spike and Harmony at the campus party. It’s amazing how SunnyDale is simultaneously the biggest AND smallest town possible. Buffy chases them out, leading to a quick brawl. Harmony spills the beans that Drusilla left Spike for a fungus demon and that he is back for the Gem Of Amara.

Buffy calls Giles about this Gem, but he laughs her off. The Gem Of Amara is basically the vampire Holy Grail. A mythological artifact of great power for which they have been searching for centuries. OF COURSE it would not be randomly buried in Southern California! I mean, that would just be silly, right?

Xander is hanging out in his basement when Anya shows up. He turns to get her a friggin’ juice box, and by the time he turns back, she is naked. She tells him she wants him, but only because she thinks it will help her stop thinking about him. Xander, renowned for his willpower, is down to help her try to achieve that.

In the villainous lair, Harmony just now realizes she has no pulse which THE NOT-HARMONY DEMON INHABITATING HER DEAD, SOULLESS BODY WOULD ALREADY KNOW, YES? Spike yells at her to shut up. She then seduces him and they bang.

Buffy is back at the party with Parker. Wait, how much time has passed here? Is this all happening in the same night? They are dancing to very sexified music. They kiss. Parker asks for consent to kiss her and lets her take the lead, making me remark that he is a gentleman! My wife snorts at me. Uh-oh!

Buffy and Parker also bang.

Man, I remember how downright horny season two of this show was, and it feels like after they took a whole season off, all of that energy came back full power for this episode.

And yes, I said “horny”, not “sexy”. There is a difference. This show is HORNY. Not sexy.

Giles finds something in a book that shocks him! He calls Buffy, but she can’t pick up because of what I said earlier about holes.

(This is a classy review, but it’s honestly just as upscale as this episode deserves)

We get everybody’s after-sex adventures now:

-Buffy wakes up and Parker is gone, though he shows right back up to give her coffee. His mom is coming to visit, and he will call her. OH, OKAY. I see.

-Anya and Xander are getting dressed. She declares herself over him. He says OK, so she gets angry and storms out.

-Harmony is drawing on Spike’s back. He shoves her away and gets back to tunnelling.

Giles, Willow, and Buffy meet in the dorm room. Giles is like “Hey, remember that gem that isn’t real? Turns out I read one (1) book, and it is. And it’s here!”.

This fucking show, man.

Giles leaves, and Willow wants the 411 on Buffy’s sex life. Weird thing I just realized: Willow and Buffy have had provable, on-screen sex the same number of times. And Willow has presumably had a lot more off-screen. But Buffy hasn’t!

We get a montage of Buffy not hearing from Parker intermixed with Spike drilling (BUT NOT YE–okay, I’ll stop).

Spike finds the underground crypt full of treasure. He grabs a large gemstone on a necklace and puts it on. He says nothing feel different. Harmony continues pestering him, and he has finally had it: he stakes her in the heart! She heals from it, though!

Oh man! The dynamic is flipped! Spike was dominating the relationship and treating her like trash, but she accidentally found the gem first and put it on. So she now has the power! What will happen n–oh, Spike just takes the gem off of her.

Okay. I guess. That’s a… choice. Sure.

Buffy sees Parker talking to another girl. She approaches to see what is up, and he sends the new girl away. He turns Buffy down for another date, and tells her, “But it was fun!”. He does not want a commitment. Buffy goes into whiny “What did I do?” mode. While she is moping, Spike pounds her in the face (BUT NOT YET! POW! I LIED!), and a fight ensues in the middle of campus, but no one is around. You know how college campuses periodically empty of all signs of life in the middle of the day.

Spike taunts her about getting dumped and kicks her ass for a bit. When he brings up Angel, however, that’s too far, and Buffy powers up. She pulls the ring off of him–in the middle of the day!–and he goes scurrying off because this show just can not figure out how sunlight affects or does not affect vampires.

Buffy and the team discuss the ring, and she decides Angel should have it. Oz promises to deliver it to him when they perform an upcoming show in LA.

Buffy and Willow discuss Parker, and Willow does her best to reassure her friend. After she leaves, we see Buffy, Anya, and Harmony all walking within, like, ten feet of each other. They are full of sexual remorse, and… wait.

Buffy and Angel resulted in Angel turning into a monster.

Xander and Faith resulted in Faith humiliating and assaulting Xander.

Giles and Mom Summers resulted in uncomfortable regret and Buffy’s disapproval.

Giles and Olivia resulted in Giles not wanting to help Buffy at first and regretting that later.

Buffy and Parker resulted in Buffy catching feelings and getting hurt.

Spike and Harmony was abusive.

Anya and Xander resulted in Anya also possibly catching feelings and Xander not seeming to care.

NO ONE on this show outside of Willow and Oz has had a positive sexual outcome for the woman involved! How weirdly Puritanical this all feels.

Episode 4

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

Hey, it’s time for our second ever Halloween episode of BTVS! The last one was wildly infuriating, but also a bunch of fun regardless. What will this offering have for us?

Buffy is moping while the gang sits around and carves pumpkins; she is still forlorn over Parker. “Buffy is moping” is such an ongoing theme for this show.

Xander promises a good time with the movie he rented, but the video store gave him Fantasia instead of Phantasm. There is a Halloween party at a frathouse to attend later in the night.

Buffy and Willow are eating lunch the next day, and Willow is frustrated that she seems to have hit a witchcraft plateau. The next level stuff is more frightening and involves summoning beings and the like. Oz is afraid she will get hurt. He compares her journey into witchcraft to his lycanthropy. Really, dude? Buffy sees Parker across the lunch area laughing away, so she leaves.

Everyone goes to visit Giles, who is handing out candy in a Mexican costume. Oh, 1999. Never change. And by that, I mean, please change. It took me a long time and several talkings-to and a few analogies to get why this stuff is no good, but it even sank in to ME eventually.

We see two frat dudes setting up the frathouse for the Halloween party. One of them found an old creepy symbol to paint on the walls.

So I have a fun interjection here: My wife made a fake “Book Of The Dead” thing for our annual Halloween party. For a self-made craft, it’s admittedly pretty incredible! But she wanted to carve some runes into it and was very scared, so she did a lot of research to make sure she only used “positive” runes and didn’t summon anything evil. This was a very big concern of hers.

We are to Xander’s house now where Anya shows up. Last episode she had very dark, almost black hair. Here she is back to being a redhead, like this show doesn’t already have one of those! She is mad at him that he just believed her when she said she was over him now. Halloween night is their one week Sexiversary, and she is frustrated that he wants to spend it with Willow and Buffy. He defuses the situation by inviting her to the party.

Oz and Xander take some music equipment to the frathouse to amp up (literally) their haunted house. Oz cuts himself moving things and bleeds on the symbol! AS he does so, plastic spider sitting on the emblem becomes real.

At the party, we see Buffy dressed as Red Riding Hood, Willow as Joan Of Arc, and Xander in a suit. He declares he is James Bond because if he gets taken over by his costume this year, he wants to be a badass. But… he was a soldier last time. That was pretty badass, right? And it has since proven useful on at least two different occasions because he has retained memories.

That nitpick aside? Pretty good idea.

Oh, and Oz just as a nametag that says “Hello! My name is… GOD”. Also VERY useful if the costumes take you over, I guess.

As they near the party, they see the mysterious army dudes from this season just walking around in the open, and they assume the army dudes are in costume.

By the time they get to the Haunted House, there is already mayhem! Everything inside the house is becoming real and attacking the partygoers. There is an honest-to-goodness actually great shot of a bleeding girl’s face flickering, and the last fraction-of-a-second image you see is her smiling maliciously. I actually had to rewind the episode to make sure I saw that! Great shot, BTVS!

Does it pay off at all? Have anything to do with the plot?

NO.

But it’s still a proper haunting shot.

You just can’t expect TOO much out of this show.

A tarantula falls on Willow, and she freaks out despite the fact that she is WEARING CHAIN MAIL. Pretty sure that spider wasn’t rolling a high enough Bite to break your AC, kiddo.

Buffy finds real blood! There are dozens of bats above their heads! They hear an unearthly voice call out “RELEASE ME”! I’d have loved it if they just assumed this was a REALLY extravagant Haunted House and didn’t go straight into Scoobies Mode.

Anya shows up late to the party dressed as The Easter Bunny because I guess human holidays are confusing to her. The front door to the frathouse is gone, which… did the evil emblem just basically say “All full up of victims right now!”? Strange. Anya sees a girl screaming for help from an open window, but then the window bricks over. She rushes over to Giles’ and convinces him of the very real peril.

Back inside the haunted house, the gang sees a guy screaming in a closet, but before they can help, a plastic skeleton attacks them and the closet vanishes. Buffy and Willow start arguing over Buffy’s need to protect them. Willow does not want to be seen as Buffy’s sidekick and thinks it is time to bust out some next-level magic to save the day. Xander tries to calm everyone down, but no one can see or hear him. When Willow storms off, he tries to talk to Buffy, but she just starts yelling for him as if he isn’t there.

Two things:

First: Is this a “their fears are coming to life” thing? Willow is worried about being a second banana. Buffy is worried her friends will die. Xander is worried his friends will leave him behind now that they are in college.

But didn’t we already do this once? With the nightmare kid in season one?

And second: A reality where Xander doesn’t even matter to the plot, but I can still see and hear him isn’t HIS fear; it’s mine.

Willow and Oz are looking for an exit, and he starts turning into a werewolf even though it isn’t time. So yeah, probably fears.

After Oz flees in terror so he won’t attack Willow, she summons a green ball of light to guide her out of the Haunted House. The ball splits into many tiny orbs of light and starts swarming her, though!

Giles and Anya arrive at the frathouse, and Giles pulls out a CHAINSAW. I’m suddenly reminded of the Community “Gas Leak” season.

Buffy falls into the basement and gets attack by zombies! They scare her back upstairs where she finds Willow, Oz, and Xander, and everything is back to normal? Did the Haunted House get bored of terrorizing them? Or is it cognizant of the episode’s run time and knows it’s time to wrap things up?

Giles sees the symbol and starts reading about the threat of Gaknarr, the fear demon. He starts reading about how to stop his arrival, but because he reads slowly and with large pauses that are unnatural in language, Buffy destroys the symbol, thereby immediately summoning him!

Gaknarr is about six inches big when he appears, so Buffy just squishes him under her shoe.

Back at Giles’ after the eventful evening, Giles notices something in his book he previously missed: the label next to the picture of Gaknarr is in a foreign language that translates to “Actual Size”.


Let’s… leave the horny episode aside for now. That’s the aberration so far.

The other three episodes have been Buffy’s first few days of college, her conflict with Cathy, and the Halloween Haunted House. And honestly?

I have loved all three. If I was bothered with ranking every episode, they would probably all make the top ten. How fun is it that in four episodes, two finished where the assumed Big Bad did not pose any actual threat (Taparrich and Gaknarr)? Subversive fun!

I know season four is WILDLY reviled, but so far, it’s going gangbusters for me! Might it get a LOT worse from here?

Sure.

It could be a lot like the Sex Is Regret episode up there for the rest of the way!

But at this point, it’s the best start a season has had.