[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Marti Noxon | Director: David Greenwalt | Aired: 01/12/1998]
“Bad Eggs” is often considered one of the worst episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I disagree with this assessment. While far from great, “Bad Eggs” has a razor-sharp thematic focus that doesn’t let up. It’s so focused, in fact, that it ends up hurting itself at times by walking into heavy-handed territory. “Bad Eggs” is quite silly, but dumb it is not. It’s also very well placed in the season and acts as a thematic primer for the two big episodes that follow.
Nearly everything that happens in “Bad Eggs” is a reflection of Buffy’s increasing sexual desire for Angel, a desire which has been gradually intensifying throughout the season. There’s also an undercurrent of responsibility and consequences weaved into the fabric of the story, which is Buffy’s better judgment trying to have a say, and mostly losing the battle.
Let’s start with all the sexual subtext (and some plain old text as well — i.e. the health class discussion), because “Bad Eggs” has piles of it. Take the opening scene, where Buffy wants her mom to buy her an outfit that she’s “too young to wear.” Why does Buffy want such a fetching outfit? Well, for Angel of course. When Buffy fails to help pick up her mom’s outfit at a store, the first thing Joyce says is, “let me guess: you were distracted by a boy.” This statement really sums up Buffy’s relationship with Angel quite well — her lust for him is a dangerous distraction to her calling as the Slayer.
“Bad Eggs” goes on to emphasize this point during the scene in the graveyard, which features Buffy and Angel, like, totally making out while pretty much ignoring anything happening in the graveyard, including the fact that they’re being watched by a couple amusing redneck vampires. Before we even get to that, though, Xander and Cordelia are getting in some hidden smooches as well. It’s telling that Xander doesn’t want to hear Cordelia speak, and Cordelia doesn’t want the visual that is Xander. They’re clearly terrible partners for each other, yet their hormones override their intellect and better judgment.
As I brought up in my review of “What’s My Line? Pt. 2” [2×10], the Xander/Cordelia coupling is clearly shadowing/paralleling what Buffy and Angel are doing. The big difference between the two couples is that Buffy and Angel are representing the dramatic aspect of adolescent love while Xander and Cordelia are representing the comedic side of it — i.e. it’s ridiculous, and about as silly as this episode.
I just love the comical directness with which Xander and Cordelia’s early kissing session segues right into a teacher spelling out SEX on a chalkboard in health class. The teacher asks, “How many of us have lost countless productive hours plagued by unwanted sexual thoughts and feelings?” Of course Xander is the first to raise his hand and nod in affirmation. Since Xander’s relationship is metaphorically connected to Buffy’s, we can easily infer that Buffy is thinking about sex a lot too.
That health class lecture works its way into talking a lot a about consequences. Xander says, “you know, it’s the whole ‘sex leads to responsibility’ thing, which I personally don’t get.” This, of course, is a problem — apparently one that wasn’t learned from in “Reptile Boy” [2×05] and its ruminations about responsibility. Not long after this Buffy tells Xander, “please, like Angel and I are just helpless slaves to passion. Grow up.” Cut to Buffy and Angel madly making out. Heh. We’ll see the dark side — the consequences — of blind “Passion” [2×17] soon enough. “Bad Eggs” isn’t shy offering hints about it though. In the mall, for example, the vampire Buffy fights had lured a pretty girl into the dark with the prospect of games and flirtation. What did she get instead? A demon. The problem is, can Buffy save girls like these if she becomes one of them? I think not.
Probably the most interesting thing about the health class sex lecture was that Buffy was not present! Oh my! Consider what that means metaphorically. Buffy seems pretty cavalier about the whole thing, then finds out that being absent lost her an egg partner, which spooks her into thinking she might be doomed to repeat her mother’s life. Thanks to Dawn’s arrival and Joyce’s eventual passing, it’s interesting that this actually kind of comes true.
In an episode with so much discussion of sex, pregnancy, and consequences, it’s quite interesting to find out that vampires can’t have children (excepting the shenanigans over on Season 3 of Angel). This effectively removes a major physical risk to Buffy if she has sex with Angel, but Season 2 is very apt to point out that having sex has risks that go beyond the physical. There are also emotional and psychological risks, which can honestly be even bigger than the physical ones sometimes.
An example of this is when Angel asks Buffy if she ever thinks about the future. Her response is one of the worst things an adolescent can say: “no. Angel, when I look into the future, all I see is you! All I want is you.” If this sounds incredibly melodramatic, it’s because it is. That’s the whole point though. I’m sure it feels really romantic to both of them in the moment, but this path inevitably leads to disaster. It tells us that Angel is becoming more important to her than anything else, including her duty as the Slayer. Notice how the camera then pans by a tombstone that reads “in loving memory”? This relationship, as we know it, is about to collapse on itself because it has no foundation whatsoever. There’s excellent writing at work this season, and “Bad Eggs” gets to share in that glory a bit.
The core plot is also tied into this discussion. The “offspring” that hatches from the demon egg — pregnancy being one of the consequences of sex as pointed out by Willow earlier — is impacting all of Buffy’s relationships: her friends, Giles, and her mom. This implies that consequences usually don’t just impact the individual, but also extend to those closest to you. Notice how drone-like everyone is when the creature latches onto them? That’s because their mind has been stripped from them, leaving only their bodies of use — yet another indictment on Buffy’s relationship with Angel.
As much as I enjoy the depth offered by “Bad Eggs”, that’s really about all it has going for it. It’s a pure setup episode, much like “Ted” [2×11] was. We are now fully prepped on Buffy’s emotional state as we move on to “Surprise” [2×13], where everything the season’s been exploring thus far comes together. Unfortunately, while the primary plot gets its point across, it’s otherwise tedious, uninventive, and silly. This episode is filled with so much sexual subtext that, at times, it borders on overkill — although, I think it knows it goes overboard (the “high voltage” sign in the basement, for example), which makes it kind of funny. The Gorch brothers are entirely superfluous, but also kind of amusing.
“Bad Eggs” may not be a good episode, but it’s not the travesty many paint it as — it’s too smart, focused, and self-aware for that. I kind of get a kick out of this little episode.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ “Bad Eggs” reminds me of the awesome Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Conspiracy”.
+ The creature that hatches from the egg is genuinely gross.
+ I have to admit getting a kick out of the fact that the sex education teacher is leading the students down into the basement while the camera pans over a sign that says “high voltage.” It’s so corny, yet the sex metaphor is totally intact! I kind of love it. Haha.
+ Poor Jonathan. One of the creatures got him too.
+ Xander telling Buffy to be careful right before he slips.
+ The Gorch brothers looking for a fight with Buffy only to find the body snatcher drones all over the basement. Very funny moment where they briefly end up working together.
+ Buffy’s oily hero shot after slaying the mother creature. If it’s good enough for Lyle, it’s good enough for me.
+ Joyce lectures Buffy about responsibility at the end of the episode, and is unknowingly both right and wrong — right about Buffy’s romantic pursuits but wrong about her Slayer duties.
+ Buffy getting knocked out in one hit again. Sigh.
+ Joyce repeatedly overreacting to Buffy’s mistakes. It’s a little forced to make a point about responsibility.
* At the beginning of the episode, Buffy punches Lyle in the groin. Something suspiciously similar happens in “Innocence” [2×14] to Angelus.
* After Lyle escapes Buffy utters the line, “oh sure, they say they’ll call.” This is hinting at Angelus’ behavior ‘the morning after’ in “Innocence” [2×14].
* Notice when the teacher asks everyone to partner up for the egg experiment that Willow immediately starts moving towards Xander only to see him head towards Cordelia? This is a bit of a tip-off to their “relationship”, something that will be revealed to Willow in “Innocence” [2×14].