Buffy 1×04: Teacher’s Pet

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: David Greenwalt | Director: Bruce Seth Green | Aired: 03/25/1997]

Clunk! Where “Witch” [1×03] came together as a coherent, albeit relatively unimportant, stand-alone story, “Teacher’s Pet” simply can’t work out what it wants to be, and is further bogged down by stale exposition, heavy-handed messages, and a ridiculous plot. While the episode gives Xander his first moment in the spotlight and establishes his tendency to be, as Willow will later put it, “a demon magnet,” it doesn’t really tell us much about him that hasn’t already been established in prior episodes. With a lack of good character work, a shoddy plot, and little depth, the episode fails at what it’s trying to do on pretty much every level.

One glaring problem is structural: “Teacher’s Pet” splits our attention between an overly silly “fork” vampire and the ridiculous she-mantis, neither of which is anything but a schlocky stock villain. The purpose of the vampire is to (1) create some (what ends up being failed) misdirection on who the primary villain is, (2) increase the sense of mystery surrounding Angel, and (3) (too conveniently) expose and then later locate Ms. French. The only worthwhile purpose of the she-mantis seems to be thematic, representing the potency and immaturity of teen sexuality and how it can all-too easily be abused by people in a position of power. The episode, in general, highlights how a child’s notion of the sexual process — through detailed conversation about how the she-mantis reproduces — can actually be one of disgust mixed with desire. These themes do resonate a little due to both Buffy’s romantic rejection of Xander in “Prophecy Girl” [1×12] and Season 2’s focus on adolescent sexuality, but unfortunately the execution and presentation of all of it is downright laughable.

“Teacher’s Pet” does earn a few points in its nuggets of insight into the nature of Xander’s interest in Buffy. This doesn’t cast a particularly positive light on Xander’s motives or personality. In the opening dream sequence he paints Buffy as a girl who is significantly weaker and less assertive than he knows she really is. Xander seems to have also given himself a boost of confidence, assertiveness, and borderline arrogance that Dream Buffy swoons over. While I totally understand how raw sexual desire can easily manifest in a dream, and his desire to prop himself up to what he thinks Buffy sees in Angel, what concerns me is Xander’s subconscious need to weaken Buffy to make him feel manlier. This is doing Buffy, as a person, a great disservice, and shows an incredible amount of immaturity. Knowing this makes me glad that Buffy isn’t interested in Xander in this way, as he’s simply not mature enough yet to sustain a sensible, healthy relationship. Then again, neither is Angel.

Even though Xander still has a lot of selfish traits to work through, I do have to give him props for largely dropping the “I’m not man enough” shtick after this on account of Buffy, once again, saving his life. “Teacher’s Pet” doesn’t even seem aware that this bit of growth is happening though, as nothing in the episode seems to indicate any change occurred — it’s his actions in following episodes that indicate a change!

“Teacher’s Pet” has a few half-baked ideas that fail to coalesce into something coherent, enjoyable, and smart. It’s thematically relevant, but not thematically resonant thanks to a heavy-handed approach. It’s broken story-wise and weak character-wise. These failures, combined with Season 1’s trademark loose-change-in-Whedon’s-pocket production values, make for one of (if not) the very worst episode(s) in not only the season, but in all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 😦

 


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Mr. Gregory gives Buffy the best advice possible: “Don’t be sorry; be smart.” I really liked him! 😦
+ Buffy wearing Angel’s leather jacket to school the morning after he gave it to her.
+ The slop they feed the high school students. My high school treated me better, but nothing replaces home-prepared meals by parents that know how to cook.
+ The scene where Principal Flutie forces Buffy to see a grievance counselor.
+ Willow shooting off a cute smile when Buffy says she’s going to do her homework.
+ The quick-cut to Xander playing the guitar when he thinks he’s “scoring” with Ms. French.
+ The ridiculous, but hilarious, scene of Xander fumbling his words all over the place to Ms. French.
+ The fun role reversal of the girls coming to rescue the trapped virgins — both boys. Subversion returns!
+ The message that being a virgin is nothing to be ashamed of, despite what society at large pushes.

– Killing off the biology teacher so soon after establishing a nice connection with Buffy. I’d have liked to have seen that connection grow into something more lasting and substantive.
– All the guys (and Xander) going nuts over Ms. French. Maybe it’s the supernatural influence, but I just don’t find her to be all that attractive.
– Abysmal prosthetics and special effects work.
– The actor who plays the other guy in the cage with Xander overacts up a storm.
– ‘You can learn things in school, kids!’ Heavy-handed messages like this play a hand in the episode’s demise.
– The ending ‘action’ sequence is incredibly poorly directed. Oh, and bug spray and bat sonar? Really?
– Mr. Gregory’s glasses and coat are left in the classroom for a comically long time. You’d think after a teacher got decapitated at school the classroom he taught in would have been searched by someone.
– Lamest. Cliffhanger. Ever. Although I begrudgingly admit that it can be read as thematic foreshadowing for Season 2.


Foreshadowing

* Buffy’s “oh boy,” in reference to Angel, is a wonderful moment of self-reflection. It’s as if Buffy is self-acknowledging that getting involved with Angel will be problematic, but she can’t stop herself from getting swept up by her emotions anyway.


[Score]

33/100

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65 thoughts on “Buffy 1×04: Teacher’s Pet”

  1. [Note: Angelus posted this comment on August 14, 2006.]

    I liked the plot in this one. The sub teacher hitting on Xander and turning out to be the first of his demon-chics was a good idea, its just -like you said- praying mantis and bad FX ruined it. Maybe I have a soft spot for any Xander centric episode. That alone would give the score a little boost.

    fav line: your hands are so ..serrated

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  2. [Note: Marijn posted this comment on February 12, 2007.]

    I loved the part where they find out the praying mantis only hits on virgins. Buffy is like: “well Xander must have had…” and Willow imediatly runs out saying that he’s going to die.

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  3. [Note: Latoya posted this comment on May 1, 2007.]

    I cannot believe that Xander was having fantasies about Buffy while sitting next to Buffy in class. He has no shame. lol

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  4. [Note: Marie posted this comment on May 11, 2007.]

    What I don’t understand is why there were eggs in Dr. Gregory’s classroom at all. The praying mantis is only supposed to mate with virgins and although it is possible that Dr. Gregory was a virgin it is highly improbable. I liked the episode, it was just the part at the end that I was not sure about. It was an interesting way to end the episode though…

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  5. [Note: LibMax posted this comment on July 23, 2007.]

    This one is also my second worst, only above The Puppet Show. I guess I prefer the corny brainlessness of this ep over the pushy and perverse brainlessness of that one. YMMV.

    As premises go, Xander has a crush on a hottie who turns out to be a monster isn’t bad, and it hadn’t been beaten to death by repetition yet. But the She-Mantis? Conceptual ack, exposition/explanation ack, visual execution a-a-a-a-ack! I can’t agree more about the bat sounds and the bug spray. Many other howlers have been noted above as well.

    As for the dialog, I just read the transcript again, and I don’t see a good bit of BTVS dialog until the “when scary things get scared” scene between Buffy and Giles in his office, followed by a Buffy/Flutie/Cordelia scene which is also good. I don’t find Blaine funny at all. And I agree, if you want us to cry over Dr. Gregory you need to let us see him in more than one episode. I did feel sad about Principal Flutie, buffoon though he was, when he bought it in The Pack, precisely because we’d come to know him as a character.

    I think the after-school-special element of this episode is perhaps the most heavy-handed ever (golly whillikers, you can actually learn stuff in school!). And I’m glad they stopped the trick endings after Season One (I think the last one is Out of Sight, Out of Mind). It must have seemed funny to the writers, but it sucks the drama and interest out of the series when you set up future threats as throwaway gags that are never addressed again. Once they established the principle that actions have consequences and stuck to it, the show deepened and matured.

    I didn’t entirely love the casting of Miss French. She didn’t seem good-looking enough, although she certainly managed to look predatory. All the leering teenage-boy sex talk got old quickly, even though I knew it was supposed to be funny, and I think we all saw the whole Blaine’s a virgin, hardy-har-har thing coming before the episode even started. I did love the Buffy/Willow exchange mentioned above:
    BUFFY: Virgins? Well, Xander’s not a – uh – I mean he’s probably –
    WILLOW: Gonna die!

    But the She-Mantis is right up there with the worst Buffy visuals ever (what tops it? Anybody?), I couldn’t cry over Dr. Gregory and I couldn’t laugh at Blaine. Most of the dialog seemed forced and clunky to me, with exceptions as noted above. More than most, this episode showed the flaws of Season One – the lack of recurring themes and characters, the crummy effects, the lazy phlebotinum (supernatural explanations in exposition), and the many bits of plot and dialog that seemed to show little respect for the viewer’s intelligence.

    At least the Scoobies (Willow, Giles, Buffy, and especially Xander) were funny whenever the script gave them a chance.

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  6. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on October 3, 2007.]

    I like this one. Call me corny if you like but I do. The dialogue is amazing, sure the plot is bad but I enjoy it anyway. It´s one of my guilty pleasures

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  7. [Note: Austin posted this comment on October 4, 2007.]

    I think it has something to do with expectations and how critical a viewer one is. I don’t watch much tv at all so I am much more easily entertained than others and so it follows that I was never actually dissapointed by a Buffy ep, not even IRYJ or WTWTA

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  8. [Note: Andrew posted this comment on December 26, 2007.]

    This one was weak. I quite liked the whole role-reversal thing with Buffy and Willow going to rescure the male virgins, but other than that it really wasn’t very good.
    As regards the trick endings, this is the only episode in which they annoyed me. The one in The Annointed (or whatever it was called) actually came to something later on; and the one in Out of Sight, Out of Mind, was kind of cool while also clearly nothing more to do with Buffy-and-co. Whereas this one just made no sense and was never referenced later on.

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  9. [Note: Nix posted this comment on February 17, 2009.]

    More shoddiness (as if we needed it) in Xander’s fantasy, it appears vampires keep their hearts next to their appendixes. Now this *is* a fantasy scene, but nonetheless I’m willing to chalk this up to the ep being crappy instead.

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  10. [Note: Tara and Willow posted this comment on March 17, 2009.]

    Ok, I agree. This episode is not so good but not so Bad either. I would put a D-. Thanks. (Note, Mikejer I’m not trying to insult you in anyway, i just say my opinion. Plus I admire you. Post a comment to me too.)

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  11. [Note: Jen Bradley posted this comment on June 16, 2009.]

    I just watched this episode. I think it may be one of the few hours of Buffy I’ve never seen. Boy . . . you were right. It was bad.

    I actually didn’t think the plot was as terrible as you made it out to be, although you were definitely right about the red herring at the end with the eggs. That made no sense. But there are so many stories of older female teachers preying on younger male students that to me it seemed like an interesting metaphor.

    I still felt like the main failing was in the execution. The actors clearly hadn’t gotten a solid grip on their characters or the Buffy language yet. Also, the director seems to have missed lots of opportunities to cash in on the jokes. He/she seemed to be trying to focus on the horror of it all, but the script is too campy to oblige.

    But the real reason I wanted to comment on the episode was because I noticed some excellent foreshadowing for Xander’s character. Near the beginning of the episode, Xander walks into the Bronze while the band is playing a song about how a guy keeps going on dates with the same type of girl. (“I already met you. You’re like my last girlfriend, yeah, and the girlfriend I had before her.”) This preying mantis lady is the first in a long chain of demonic girlfriends for Xander! I don’t know if the writers intended this or not, but I thought it was neat.

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  12. [Note: Bubblez. posted this comment on June 25, 2009.]

    You think the whole girl being a demon/monster is foreshadowing Xander’s relationship with Anya??

    Just a thought. :3

    Nice site!! x

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  13. [Note: Lucy posted this comment on August 5, 2009.]

    This episode did, indeed, suck. I particularly hated this exchange between Buffy and Giles:

    Giles: “What are you going to do?”

    Buffy: “My homework”

    Ack! ack! I’m overcome by the disgusting taste of this cheesiness! I hated that line. I know it’s only tiny, but I always have to close my eyes and ears when I get to that part.

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  14. [Note: Kate posted this comment on September 1, 2009.]

    Just saying, Xander siad something about ‘ a railroad spike’ in this episode. We all know that’s not a typical thing for a teenager to say, so maybe it’s foreshadowing Spike’s arrival less than a series later?

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  15. [Note: Emily posted this comment on September 3, 2009.]

    @Lucy, I totally agree with you. I think that’s the stupidest line of the entire series.

    @Kate, I think it’s mentioned in the previous episode, not this one.

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  16. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on May 11, 2010.]

    With respect to Xander’s railroad spike comment, what seems most likely to me is that one of the Buffy writers for some reason has that idea in his/her head as a way to torture someone and wrote both of those lines (here and in “School Hard”) coincidentally. My understanding is that there was no initial plan to keep Spike on as a character, and so it’s unlikely that his arrival was foreshadowed.

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  17. [Note: jenska posted this comment on July 29, 2010.]

    i liked it. 😀

    i love season 1, when everyones cute and undamaged and dealing with high school is hell. i really like the teacher-student metaphor, although obv its done way better in I Only Have Eyes for You

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  18. [Note: Lizzie posted this comment on August 13, 2010.]

    I agree with your score, Mike. This is episode, in my opinion, is the second to worst episode of the ENTIRE series.

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  19. [Note: Ellie posted this comment on September 16, 2010.]

    I think the were-possum* in season two was probably the worst visual effect ever. In the commentaries even the writers were cringing and apologizing.

    *it was meant to be a cool-looking werewolf.

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  20. [Note: Michael Carruthers posted this comment on September 17, 2010.]

    This is definitely the worst episode of the season. Everything was just so overly-convenient. The classroom subject being bugs (with the teacher telling the whole class how to kill her) leading to the awful “do your homework” metaphor, Ms French showing up in the exact class of the doctor she killed just a night before, the whole glasses-still-in-the-classroom thing mentioned in this review…just everything was “off”. What about Blaine being all petrified when Xander first sees him, yet when the preying mantis takes Xander from the cage Blaine starts making jokes? “How do you like your eggs, man?” Just took any level of seriousness away from the situation.

    The preying mantis was ridiculous looking, but nobody yet has mentioned the horrible 180-degree head spin. That just looked so stupid. And someone in the class definitely would’ve seen it, too.

    I’d say a 29/100 for this ep.

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  21. [Note: Dimitri posted this comment on September 22, 2010.]

    I felt like killing myself when I heard Natalie French or whatever say: ‘You must be cool as a cucomber, then’. That was just aweful! But I didn’t really hate this ep. or something. I just didn’t like it as much as the others..

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  22. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on September 25, 2010.]

    ADMIN NOTE: This episode review has been completely rewritten. All comments beyond this point are in reference to the new review.

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  23. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on September 26, 2010.]

    Great work. I remember skipping this episode when I was showing Buffy to my cousin.

    And an episode that I skip myself when I do my rewatches.

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  24. [Note: Sasukeman posted this comment on September 26, 2010.]

    Hey Mikejer,

    The new reviews look great. Are planning on updating (not rewriting, just updating) later seasons as you rewatch the series as well? It is interesting to me how the show changes during each subsequent viewing. I find myself have rather inconsistent favorites (though my general preferences remain the same).

    Anyway, to the point. I am not much of a fan of this episode either, but I do think you are going bringing a bit too much psychoanalysis to Xander’s dream sequence. I personally see it to be less concerned with lowering or weakening Buffy, but rather with idealizing himself and imagining himself with the strength that he imagines Buffy would be attracted to. The actual images are less related to a specific context and more with general teen male ideals. That’s why I love the dream. I remember in high school it seemed as if the coolest guys were those who could play guitar, or were extremely athletic and tough. Xander is placing Buffy within a fantasy he has properly lived through a thousand times with different targets of affection. Is it true love or a realistic depiction of Buffy? No. But, honestly, it’s a fun gag that is intended to resonate with a large male audience. After all, Xander – at least in the first season – seemed to be intended as a generalized high school male, so this depictions makes sense.

    At any rate, great reviews that, even when I don’t completely agree, always get me thinking and re-conceptualizing my own view of BtVS. I look forward to reading more.

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  25. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on September 26, 2010.]

    Fair grade. This is actually my least favorite Buffy episode — I like it even less than “I Robot, You Jane.” So my review probably would’ve stopped at the first sentence. Thanks for expanding on yours!

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  26. [Note: DarthMarion posted this comment on September 30, 2010.]

    Word, Mike!

    Firstly, Miss FRENCH? Is that a pun to french people? I should be offended ^^. And the praying mantis is such a bad metaphor in my opinion…Vampire as meta on male predatory sexuality? Okay, it’s a metaphor with (historical) context and at least a little nuance. And the show explored it, twisted it, subverted it. But this? It’s so caricatural and shallow…I actually find it a little offending.

    The only redeeming quality of the episode is the demon magnet trend starting in it. It’s a thing I love about Xander, because, as Joss said it’s a way to show that Xander is attracted to powerfull women… Which is really great. Not so redeeming when the episode is contradicting it…Yes, the dream says a lot in that regard. @Sasukeman, I can’t agree that it’s more about idealizing Xander than lowering Buffy. I think it’s both, DreamBuffy is matteroffactly a very lowered and weakened version of the real one. And not just physical weakness, she’s so out of character and damsely cliché….

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  27. [Note: Elianne23 posted this comment on October 9, 2010.]

    Not one of the best, I agree. However, no Buffy episode is a waste of time. There are always redeeming

    features, such as bits of really good dialogue (which you’ve mentioned about), some character “explanation”, if not necessarily development, and occasionally some foreshadowing (which is more obvious in hindsight).

    I’d still rather watch a bad Buffy episode than almost anything else on TV. Except for WtWTA, which brings me to the point of nausea.

    Thanks for redoing your reviews, Mike. I’m watching S7 on MuchMusic right now, and will start over with S1

    so I can follow your reviews.

    Elianne

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  28. [Note: Alice posted this comment on November 5, 2010.]

    God, I HATED those endings! I suppose the eggs were dealt with off-screen, but Arrrgh!

    Although I did like the invisible girl one- it sort of ties in with the whole Initiative/ Government involvement with the supernatural world thing (although I wish they would have at least referenced her in a later episode for some closure).

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  29. [Note: Jermzy posted this comment on November 23, 2010.]

    I dunno, I really liked this episode- it just has all of the fun corniness I LOVE about Season 1. The resue just in the nick of time, the creepy/monstrous villain and the recurring character love triangle just make this an instant joy for me. I do think the claw demon was a bit unnecissary and kind of crowded up the episode.

    On a side note, Ms French NOT attractive? Mate, I’m gay and she turned ME on. Just saying 😛

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  30. [Note: Dimitri posted this comment on November 23, 2010.]

    hahah Yeah, me too Jermzy. Me too. Maybe she just has that effect on gay people =)

    Ok maybe not really turnin me on but she was still pretty attractive xD

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  31. [Note: John Roberts posted this comment on November 23, 2010.]

    I didn’t hate the episode because it was all fresh at the time. I mean, this was the first secret-demon story. It would be hard to watch again, though.

    Oh and Mike … if Ms. French walked into a bar wearing that black dress, the guys would be stumbling all over themselves. 🙂

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  32. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on November 23, 2010.]

    I guess she’s just not my type. The face, hair, and overall body structure really don’t do it for me. Sure she’s got boobs, but that’s not the most distinguishing physical factor I look for in women. :p

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  33. [Note: Josh posted this comment on December 4, 2010.]

    While this episode for me is definitely one of the worst, it did have some great parts and lines in it.

    -Buffy taking the glass of water after saying “No thank you.”

    -Buffy: Her fashion sense screams predator.

    Willow: It’s the shoulder pads.

    (I missed Buffy’s bimbo girly girl attitude later on)

    -The gang getting the wrong house and disturbing an old woman. “No dear, i’m right here.”

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  34. [Note: MrB posted this comment on January 17, 2011.]

    The episode did have one redeeming feature, but not enough to change the score.

    The relationship that developed between Dr Gregory and Buffy was touching and seemed real enough. Both parties seemed like real people. There are very few (if any) examples of other adults who see Buffy as a real person with a brain.

    Most other adults (that aren’t Giles or Joyce) either actively dislike Buffy or treat her like they were adults on any “Peanuts” special – “wa-wa-wa-wa-WA-wa”.

    I was hoping that this kind of relationship or at least balance would show up in the adult population on the show at least occasionally. It didn’t.

    Plus the actor who played Dr Gregory was quite good, and was good with SMG.

    Like

  35. [Note: Arachnea posted this comment on January 26, 2011.]

    This is one of the episodes I use to skip when I watch the show. This time, I watched it again, because I’ve decided to follow the reviews. Well, I won’t do that again any time soon :-p

    There are some interesting themes and it’s a shame they were so poorly colored. Like boys fantasies, the lack of confidence et the power of teachers (being able to mislead, abuse or in the opposite, giving confidence).

    I won’t say more about the monsters… But I am really, really disappointed about the death of professor Gregory. That was a powerful scene between him and Buffy, very simple and true. I would have liked to see more of this relation. At that point, he’s the first adult to give her advices and credit to grow up sanely (as in encouragement). Her mother and Giles haven’t been very supportive yet: they try to restrain her, try to make her act wisely in restriction terms, not in supportive or prevention terms: they are rather clumsy. A third adult figure would have been really interesting (not like Flutie – who is by the way – very entertaining :-p).

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  36. [Note: CoyoteBuffyFan posted this comment on February 4, 2011.]

    I don’t seem to think this episode is as bad as most others do. It is certainly toward the bottom of my list of Buffy episodes but I wouldn’t give it an F. Maybe a D.

    I like the recurring theme of Xander being attracted to demons which starts here.

    I think it is cute how Willow seems so relieved at first that Xander has a crush on the teacher. I’m sure it is because she is thinking that he has no chance with her instead of with Buffy who she worries might just fall for him back.

    I also like how they call the vampire “Fork Guy” throughout the episode. It showcases the lighted-heartedness we have come to love in the face of danger. While in actuality he wasn’t very dangerous, there was supposed to be a sense of danger, I’m guessing, since we learn that he took a nice gash out of Angels’ arm.

    I totally agree with everyone that “cliffhanger” of the egg sack at the end is awful, particularly because they never follow up on it. That is one thing about later seasons that I like that are somewhat lacking in this season — the follow through on thoughts or themes brought up in the episodes. That’s okay though, the show was still trying to find it’s rhythm.

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  37. [Note: Jeff posted this comment on May 10, 2011.]

    I’ve been watching the first season on Hulu with a friend and got the dubious pleasure of seeing this episode again. Agreed on most counts, though I have to defend Xander’s dream sequence. It’s egotistical and immature, sure, but I think his diminishing Buffy is only the means towards aggrandaizing himself: he wants to be the big heroic alpha male and, since he can’t really concieve of anything Buffy would have trouble fighting (remember, it’s still early in the series and vampires are as high on the supernatural scale as anything he’s seen) he has to weaken her to make the fantasy work. It’s the same sort of thing as Jonathan and “Superstar” later: he’s not actually trying to diminish everyone else, but being top dog means everyone else gets demoted to your lackeys.

    Still, there’s so, so much bad stuff about this episode. Xander accusing Buffy of being jealous was my cringe moment. That’s such a tired cliche in horror/suspense stories, and it never really works for me. When in the history of the world has a trusted friend ever responded to jealousy with “I think your perfect new parter is an axe murderer/evil alien/praying mantis?” I guess it’s supposed to be the pheremones talking when Xander blows her warning off, but in that case it feels a little like a cheat to have him mind-controlled into acting the way the plot needs him to regardless of the likelihood.

    And that last fight scene, the awful directing, the cans of raid, the bat sonar, the offscreen hacking with no actual damage done, the giant unmoving mantis-puppet head… it was like something out of an Ed Wood movie. And as said, the exposition is just clumsy and way too blunt. The first time Giles brings up his crazy friend, he just briefly says that he knew of a watcher who, before going insane, had a theory about beasts who could… and then he gets cut off before he can finish. Honestly, I thought that was pretty clever and would have worked just fine as all the exposition we really need. Instead, they devoted two more scenes to expositing on the rather flimsy connection between praying mantis lady and classical mythology, which really didn’t add anything and instead just pointed out some of the problems with it all (like, what’s so mind-bending about mantis lady that she drove a watcher insane? She seemed pretty pedestrian as far as demons go).

    As others have said, Dr. Gregory would have been a nice humanizing touch for the portrayal of adults in the Buffyverse if he’d stuck around. It seems like the first season’s purposely devoted to killing off sympathetic adult characters, probably to establish how harsh life on the hellmouth (and in general) can be. Still, it hints at a direction the show could have gone in, with more focus on “civilians” as characters rather than the emotional closed-ranks that formed with the Scoobies (“Angel” later ran with that sort of idea in its first few seasons, so at least it did get revisited).

    And on a more trivial note, what was up with Ms. French’s accent? Sometimes she didn’t have one, sometimes it sounded sophisticated, and at least once it turned into a full-on Southern accent while she was talking to Xander. I’m not sure if the actress just couldn’t get whatever they were aiming for right, or if maybe they were trying to hint that each person’s perception of her is a little different, but it got really distracting at times.

    But it does start poor Xander’s demon-magnet trend, it had some good lines (“your hands are so serrated” still gets me every time) and the little old lady they mistakingly visited was adorable. I’d give it maybe a D, but the F totally makes sense. Anyway, I love this site and your reviews!

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  38. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on December 6, 2011.]

    OK, This episode wan’t bad. It wasn’t great either but i agree with on or two of the comments above i don’t think it was worthy an F grade i think perhaps a D?

    For starters this episode had two plots; a primary being a male virgin eating giant bug and a sub-plot, ‘Folk Guy’. To be honest i think its the sub plot that causes the main problems. I ponder this episode and i often come to the conclusion that isn’t really necessary. Angel comes to warn Buffy that theres a big evil coming. He makes out that its a real threat, one he couldn’t handle. The bottom line? At the end the vampire isn’t the aforementioned dangerous big bad Angel makes out and the fight scene between him and Buffy is quick and to be honest not a big. This sub plot didn’t amount to anything and it served little purpose over than locate Bug woman. Something i’m sure the writers could have worked on. It did however serve as a mechanism to include The Master in this episode, keeping him an underlying theme.

    I like the scenes in the library. WIllow hacking, Giles researching and Buffy planning. The fight scene at the end is ok, as fight scenes ok. Giles’ lunge for the tape recorded and the Xander’s face when watching Buffy fight leaves me with questions of what is he thinking? Is he in awe of her or is he scared of her or is it something along the lines of wow i wish i could do that!

    The other thing that bugged me (no pun intended) is that yes the initial set up of the gang figuring it out and Buffy saving the day is good but Xander is missing and it seems odd, theres a lack of wit and humour and it makes me a little sad to think of them working together without him.

    Kudos to Xander himself though! His interest in Miss French is believable and the scenes at the Bronze when he is saving Buffy are a cute touch. A thing we can all relate to i’m sure. The conjuring of fantasies is something a lot of people do.

    My favourite scene was when Xander was watching Buffy at the end. I enjoy Xander’s interest in Buffy and i’m glad is shown as a real thing over a span of the entire season and into others. His daydreams go along way in showing us how Xander wants to be scene, especially with the myth behind the she-mantis telling us that he is an innocent desperately wanting to be the guy Buffy wants and deeper than that he wants to be noticed in that way.

    Although this is a Xander centric episode Buffy does get good moments especially with Dr Gregory. The writers do well hear with regards to making us understand and feel the loss Buffy is feeling when he is killed unlike in The Harvest with Jesse (Which i have noted on a comment there).

    I also enjoyed the myth behind the She-Mantis, i am a fan overall of the mixing of both Myth with over fantasies to make the demons come to life.

    A curve ball in this episode was finding the real life Mrs French, didn’t see that coming!

    This episode is not terrible yes the bug costume wasn’t great and that to maybe the cause for a lot fans dislike for this episode but its better than many give it credit for. It is an episode i watch again and again. For me this isn’t the worst episode of the season. I enjoyed it and continue to do so every time i watch it. It has a fun factor.

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  39. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on December 6, 2011.]

    I’ve long held this is my least favorite episode of Buffy (there’s a comment a ways up of me saying so), but I just rewatched it and I must admit it’s not as bad as I remembered. There’s some fun and charming character interaction early in the episode — this is around the time when the writers started really finding the characters’ voices, I think.

    Also, I disagree that this episode is unaware of Xander’s growth. The previous two epidsodes — every episode since Xander learned about Buffy being the Slayer — his insecurity about her power has come out in some way. In “The Harvest” he says, “I’m less than a man” because Buffy doesn’t want him to help rescuing Jesse. In “The Witch” he takes credit for saving everyone Willow, right in front of Buffy, Giles, and Amy no less! His dream sequence at the start of this episode fits in with that. But at the end, he acknowledges that Buffy was right and that she saved him — no qualifiers, no mumbling insecurities, just real heartfelt gratitude. And he does change after that, and though he by no means treats Buffy perfectly in the future, he does accept her leadership.

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  40. [Note: Rob posted this comment on January 18, 2012.]

    Bad execution as you say, but this is the episode that really sets up the three main characters’ love triangle. Or quadrangle. Whatever. We already knew Xander had a thing for Buffy, but here her attraction to Angel is confirmed, and we see strong evidence of Willow’s love for Xander. Plus we now know (though we surely suspected before) that Xander’s a virgin — later it’s going to be important that he loses this status to someone else than Willow.

    Worst is the head rotation thing.

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  41. [Note: Rob posted this comment on January 18, 2012.]

    In fact, if you wanted to stretch the analogy a little farther, you might say that the eggs in the biology class closet, fertilized in this episode, finally hatch in S6.

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  42. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on January 30, 2012.]

    In some respects, i disagree with the principle theory that Xander received little character development, i for one am of the cohesive opinion that his character grows and is explored quite a bit in this season, there are a multitude of factors in an abundance of episode that gave Xander poignant character development, this episode alone gives us a great insight into his inner thoughts regarding his feelings for Buffy and his thoughts on her power; being both in awe of it and a little unnerved or perhaps jealous of it? That could be a reason for his constant mention of it, for instance in the harvest when Buffy tells him you’re not the slayer he says i knew you were going to throw that back in my face, this character trait is an inherent one of Xander’s proven by the continued focus of this in later seasons, The Zeppo springs to mind.

    Other moments are in The Harvest when leaves School to aid Buffy in her search for Jesse, He often shows moments of bravery too. We learn a lot about Xander in Nightmares and The Pack, the obvious of course that he is scared of clowns, still digs Buffy when she’s a vampire and ‘dead’ which is a little moment of foreshadowing if you ask me for him still feeling things for her until Anya really! After she died. Other things that are maybe not so fluent to the audience is the darkness that may exist within, when he is a hyena its obvious, not contrived but on the surface. Xander in my view subverts this nature a lot like Giles and Ripper. Think of the moment in season six when he sees Spike and Anya sleeping together he goes after Spike with the determination to kill him. In season 5 he is the one who suggests killing Ben. In season 2, he tells Buffy to kick Angelus’ ass and in season three there is the moments in Dead Man’s Party and Revelations when he lays in to Buffy, not pulling any punches. Xander can hold his own and notices a lot, this aspired and grow form the first season.

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  43. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on June 10, 2012.]

    I don’t think this episode really knew what it was trying to say. The relationship with Buffy and Dr. Gregory brought nice but otherwise useless drama. I didn’t even see the point in Buffy’s relationship with Dr. Gregory; now if the writers had kept his character, the whole Buffy/Dr. Gregory thing would have been relevant to the show. Now the whole basis for this episode is just awful. A praying mantis lady? I’m awash in a sea of what-the-hell-is-that-all-about?

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  44. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on June 11, 2012.]

    Dr Gregory was a symbol that not everyone or every teacher in Sunnydale was uncaring about his or her students, he saw the best in Buffy, – a little continuity from the first episode WTTHM with the Principal ripping up and then sticking back together her permanent record after reading about the destruction of the gym at her old school.

    -The relationship may not have been relevant but it did add to the Buffy being trouble or having to make and do things that aren’t exactly right in the eyes of society. Like the breaking into the mortuary in episode five etc. He doesn’t give her a hard time, he sees the potential there.

    More importantly his being attacked and mated with by the she-mantis highlights that even with being the age he was he was still a virgin

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  45. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on June 11, 2012.]

    Okay, what I meant to say was, that their relationship was irrelevant to the plot of this episode. To the overall plot of the season the relationship with Buffy and Dr. Gregory was relevant, so I am certainly giving it points for that. However they needed to do a better job integrating that relationship into the overall plot of the episode and most importantly, the theme of the episode. The only connection their relationship had to the plot and theme of the episode was the fact that Dr. Gregory was attacked and mated with by the she-mantis. Maybe I’m not understanding the full scope of this episode, but I still stand by what I said. And thanks for that last sentence Gemma, it kind of clears up what this episode was trying to say,

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  46. [Note: R Martin posted this comment on October 17, 2012.]

    I can see why you gave this episode an F. It’s a praying mantis i fully remember watching this episode and thinking well Buffy is kinda decent but it doesn’t really grab me still easily forgotten though compared to later successes this is one of the first seasons only real misfires.

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  47. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on December 31, 2012.]

    Because he spent the past decades living in alleyways eating rats, is completely unused to human contact and interaction and has no ambitions or goals in life except to be near Buffy in the belief that she is the grace that will somehow absolve him of his past. He spent the half-century before that hiding from everyone, the century before that slaughtering his way through Europe and the decades before that drinking and trying to piss off his dad. None of these things make for maturity or teach someone about healthy relationships. By Buffy season 3 he starts to become his own person, particularly after “Amends.” But even then he’s not doing very well in the first season of his own show. He only truly finds his way after, appropriately enough, “Epiphany” in season 2 of Angel. Of course, given that Buffy herself is only sixteen she doesn’t really need a mature, adult relationship. Where emotional maturity is concerned Angel and Buffy are actually closer together than the huge age-difference might suggest.

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  48. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on January 22, 2013.]

    Loving this episode for its link to mythology, it reminds me of Jorougumo – the “prostitute spider”. From Japanese folklore, the spider can transform itself into a seductive women…much like Mrs French (The impostor that is) …to entice men and then devour them. Liking the link 🙂

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  49. [Note: Monica posted this comment on September 5, 2013.]

    One thing that personally bothered me was that everybody assumed Xander and the other boys lost their virginity. With the ages the characters actually look it’s pretty realistic, but they’re actually sophomores in high school. That means these characters are either fifteen or sixteen which is just a highly premature age to automatically think someone is definitely not a virgin. Had they been say, 18 or 19, I’d understand it, but they’re at an age where loss of virginity is extremely rare.

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  50. [Note: T.G. posted this comment on October 20, 2013.]

    Forgive me. I definatly don’t like this episode, it makes me cringe at times, but for some weird reason I was entertained. anyway another freakin awesome review!

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  51. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on April 28, 2014.]

    I don’t think ANY Buffy episode deserves an F. Not even the worst ones. Especially when I think about some of the other TV shows I watch.

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  52. [Note: Nebula Nox posted this comment on May 11, 2014.]

    I know that there are plenty of reasons to dislike this episode, but there are a few good points.

    Dr. Gregory at the beginning is so nice!

    I liked how Buffy is already taking charge. She knows that she is the one who is ultimately responsible, so she goes after the fork vampire even though Giles asks her not to. She sends Giles after the bat sonar. When they don’t know where the fake Miss French is residing, she comes up with another way to track her down.

    And the fact that Willow is already an expert in hacking means that she has always had a tendency to disregard rules – something that will be evident in later seasons.

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  53. [Note: TheTad posted this comment on May 11, 2014.]

    I’m weird – this is one of my favourite season 1 episodes! Don’t ask me why. I just don’t dread it anywhere near as much as The Puppet Show, I Robot etc, even later episodes like No Assembly Required and Bad Eggs.

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  54. [Note: wade1055 posted this comment on March 16, 2015.]

    I think this episode give us a view of the relationship between Giles and Buffy. Even in the beginning we see Giles showing care for Buffy. When she is in the library on the stairs with Willow and Xander, who does he offer water to and try to comfort? He hears what the others say but listens to Buffy. So we are in the beginnings of what will become a very non traditional Watcher/Slayer dynamic. I feel it is this dynamic and that Buffy has friends and family that keep her alive alot longer then expected.

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  55. [Note: Jewel posted this comment on August 21, 2015.]

    I haven’t quite made up my mind yet, but this may very well be my least favorite episode. Even so, not one ‘Buffy’ episode is without redeeming qualities. Since there’s nothing critical I can say about TP that hasn’t already been said, I’ll say one thing contrary to this review in its defense: I love Xander’s dream.

    It’s my favorite scene, one which I don’t find disturbing at all because it’s the fantasy of a teenage boy who has a lot of maturing to do. It’s not so much about weakening Buffy as it is idealizing himself. I think he feels that to even have a shot with Buffy, he would need to match or exceed her in physical prowess. I’d say it also speaks of Xander’s protective nature. Whatever the case, the whole thing is hilarious.

    Aside from that, I appreciate the theme, and there are a handful of cute character beats thrown in with a few fleeting moments of funny that undercut the ridiculousness of any action related to the plot (i.e. an exasperated Buffy trying to play the bat sonar and getting a recording of Giles dictation instead). Overall, I more or less agree with the score and dread this episode every time.

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  56. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on August 21, 2015.]

    They are all supposed to be 16 in Buffy/Willow/Xander’s year. I knew many people in High School who had already had several relationships by the time they were 18-19. It really isn’t unusual to lose your virginity at 16. 30 years ago, I’d agree it wasn’t common.

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  57. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on January 23, 2016.]

    So I was looking up the actress who played Ms. French, cause I was wondering her accent came from while watching the POTN video, and it turns out that not only has she been in a crap tonne of TV episodes but also banged Harry Kim in another sexually focused episode of television.

    Yah SFDebris already covered the uncomfortableness of Harry Kim banging someone so check out the review if you need recovery from that statement.

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