Buffy 2×13: Surprise

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Marti Noxon | Director: Michael Lange | Aired: 01/19/1998]

It’s generally thought that Buffy the Vampire Slayer reaches its potential for the first time when “Innocence” [2×14] arrives, so it’s only natural to think of the episode that comes before it as inconsequential. It’s true that “Surprise” can’t match the explosive emotion and game changing moments that “Innocence” [2×14] offers, but it is a fair bit more important than initially meets the eye.

It’s easy to peg “Surprise” purely as the perfunctory ‘setup episode’, but there’s far more going on here. “Surprise” may have some setup, but at its heart it’s really a climax to everything the season has been building towards from the start. The season is about to make yet another thematic shift, and this one is going to result in some of the most painful and impactful moments in Buffy’s life.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a moment to review where we’ve been. Thus far, the season’s focused primarily on two themes: adolescent sexuality and moral ambiguity, each introduced respectively in “Some Assembly Required” [2×02] and “Lie to Me” [2×07]. Thus far nearly every episode has explored the nuances, angles, and details of these themes. All that’s left is for the characters to make their moves and see if they’ve learned enough to avoid the pain of repeating the mistakes others have made. To quote Star Trek: The Next Generation (“Q Who?”), as I sometimes do: “The hall is rented, the orchestra engaged. It’s now time to see if you can dance.”

If “Bad Eggs” [2×12] wasn’t a strong enough hint at what was coming next, “Surprise” confirms that it is quite literally the sexual climax of the season. “Innocence” [2×14] and beyond, then, has to deal with the aftermath of the act — the morning after. Although Buffy and Angel are the clear focus, all of the other couples are touched on as well, from Xander beginning to want more from Cordelia than hidden trysts to Willow starting to date Oz to Jenny being revealed to harbor a secret past. There are also more sexual references that show up, such as when Xander crudely asks Buffy about a pre-birthday spanking coming on. Jenny — the adult — appropriately responds, “I’d curb that impulse, Xander.” Hah, if only.

The opening moments of “Surprise” do a fabulous job of setting the tone for the entire episode — it’s my kind of scene: surreal, exciting, creepy, beautiful, insightful, and meaningful, all at once. Buffy’s having a prophetic dream again, which nicely includes both personal and “professional” hints of events to come. It’s clear that being the Slayer gives Buffy a heightened intuition and vague premonitions, but what’s so great about it is that it’s not just used to feed her plot information. The dreams are also useful in increasing Buffy’s self-awareness and recognition of what her subconscious is trying to say. Whether or not she utilizes its meanings in a constructive manner is another story, of course.

Let’s dig into the specifics of this dream, because there’s a lot of fun stuff in there. Buffy appears to wake up from sleep in a disconcerted state, already hinting at the beginning of “Innocence” [2×14]. After getting out of bed and walking into the hallway, we’re clued to Drusilla looking freshly fed and creepily stalking Buffy without her knowledge — we later find out that Drusilla is literally in, or sharing, Buffy’s dream. Buffy opens a door in her house that leads to the Bronze, where she finds Willow speaking French next to a monkey (in an amusing reference to “What’s My Line? Pt. 2” [2×10]) and then Joyce asking the mother of all questions, “Do you really think you’re ready, Buffy?” Notice the dreamy music playing in the Bronze?

Music often plays an important role on Buffy, and the lyrics of songs during key moments in “When She Was Bad” [2×01] and “School Hard” [2×03] have provided great examples of this thus far. “Surprise” is another episode to add to this list. The song this time is called “Anything” by Clement and Murray. The lyrics quite succinctly sum up just how ready Buffy thinks she is for her first sexual experience while simultaneously highlighting just how dangerous those assumptions are: “Take me over/I’m lying down, givin’ in to you/I’m a hurricane/I can’t describe this feeling, oh/Now that I’ve found this love/ I’d do anything for you/I’m a fire, burnin’ like a house aflame/I am motionless/ I cannot move/I only see you fly.”

These lyrics corroborate what has been increasingly apparent in recent episodes: Buffy is completely losing herself in Angel, and the result of that is going to be a hurricane of consequences that will swirl around everyone close to her until she reaches the breaking point. These feelings are dangerously similar to how Giles described Eyghon in “The Dark Age” [2×08] — they’d lose themselves in the demon high, but eventually one of them “lost control” and ended up dead. Now let me repeat the lyrics: “Take me over/I’m lying down, givin’ in to you.” Hmm… It looks like Buffy’s “drug” here is puppy love. One of the extensions of puppy love is quite often lust, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

Also of note in the dream is how Buffy and Angel share a brief glance that one might describe as ‘perfect happiness’ right before Angel is staked by Drusilla. Again I say, hmm… I love the shot of Buffy reaching out for Angel’s hand, which has the Claddagh ring on, but failing to make contact with it as it artistically dissolves just out of reach — such a beautiful shot. Then Drusilla almost tenderly adds, “Happy birthday, Buffy.” Roll credits. Great opening scene!

After waking up from the nightmare, Buffy soon runs over to Angel’s place to see if he’s okay. Buffy’s rightfully concerned that her dream might be trying to tell her that something’s about to happen to Angel. Rather than actually addressing Buffy’s concerns Angel instead covers them up with a kiss that sparks an avalanche of them that they can barely pull away from, which nicely sums up the focus of their relationship recently.

Buffy has an insightful little chat with Willow shortly after all the Angel kissing. This conversation reminds us of the massive gap in life experience between Buffy and Angel, that Buffy is only just turning 17, and that Buffy is at least somewhat aware that she’s letting lust get the better of her. “Acting on want can be wrong,” she tells Willow. This statement is coming from the intellectual side of Buffy that has witnessed and absorbed everything that’s been happening this season. Buffy acted out of ‘want’ in “Reptile Boy” [2×05] and it really didn’t end well, as did Ampata in “Inca Mummy Girl” [2×04]. Again, finding out about Giles’ history in “The Dark Age” [2×08] also provides precedent to be concerned. There are lessons, symbols, and signs in almost every episode this season that have been built to guide Buffy to smarter decisions that would minimize being hurt and the brunt of brutal consequences.

Yet… Buffy’s argument against all of the evidence in front of her is a classic teen staple: “What if I never feel this way again?” Buffy’s letting emotions, which are inherently fickle and inconsistent, be her guide. Even putting that aside, the argument itself is inherently flawed. For one, it’s highly unlikely Buffy will never feel love for someone again considering how many people start up new relationships at all ages. Even if she really never does feel like this again, that might not be such a bad thing. The most fruitful relationships have physical and emotional intimacy layered on top of a foundation of knowledge and understanding. Lust must be transformed into love, which is a notion that Buffy will eventually embrace (Season 7).

The inexperienced and naïve Willow innocently throws Buffy’s own motto from “Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1×01] back at her, to “seize the day.” This misplaced validation sadly seals the deal for what Buffy plans to do. It’s too bad Buffy doesn’t recall where that advice took Willow back then: she nearly got killed by a vampire! Now that we know Buffy is committed to sleeping with Angel, it’s a good time to return to Drusilla and what she symbolizes in “Surprise”: Buffy’s lust.

Notice how Drusilla is so prominently featured in Buffy’s dreams? Even before “Surprise”, though, it’s interesting how Buffy’s lust for Angel seemed to fire up right after Drusilla got back to full strength in “What’s My Line? Pt. 2” [2×10]. The two dreams Buffy has in “Surprise” really solidify this notion. In the first dream Drusilla is seen stalking Buffy with blood dripping from her mouth as though she has recently fed (or, metaphorically, Buffy’s lust has been fed), followed quickly by Angel being staked by Drusilla. This is all, of course, directly foreshadowing the end of the episode.

In the second dream Buffy and Drusilla are both seen wearing a similar, possibly the same, white dress. Drusilla is once again threatening to kill Angel, only this time by decapitation. It’s interesting that Drusilla first targets Angel’s heart and then secondly his head, confirming that Buffy is placing her heart before her head with regard to Angel.

The connections don’t end there, as both of them are about to unleash a dangerous monster — one intentionally, another unintentionally, which wonderfully parallels the respective parties each of them are a part of in “Surprise”. Drusilla is organizing her own party, whereas Buffy is getting a surprise party! This connection is never more visually apparent than when Buffy wakes up from the second dream. There’s a close-up shot of her looking very concerned that bleeds right into a close-up shot of Drusilla smiling. Why is Drusilla smiling? Because she’s (Buffy’s lust) about to win. Fabulous writing and visual storytelling — just thrilling.

Buffy’s not the only character that’s affected by Drusilla though! Now that Drusilla is back to full health, Spike seems to have lost interest in Sunnydale — he wants to move on and is apt to point out that nothing ever seems to go as planned here. This has been very true for Spike thus far, but it’s been equally true for Buffy. Back in “Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1×01] the plan was for Buffy to get a fresh start — a clean slate — but it never really materialized. Buffy’s problems followed her to Sunnydale and then got even worse, as have Spike’s.

Since Spike is Buffy’s villainous counterpart (see “School Hard” [2×03]), it’s of no surprise that he has so much passion for Drusilla and how she elevates his un-life. Drusilla changed Spike’s world when she made him into a vampire, to the point where he adopted an entirely new persona that was wild, dangerous, and untamed. It will later be Buffy that inspires him to transform yet again, only this time into a person that can self-reflect and grow, all culminating in a soul. So, in a nutshell, the embodiment of Buffy’s lust in Drusilla nourishes Spike’s evil side whereas Buffy’s love will eventually nourish Spike’s soulful, good side. Buffy’s growth is tied to Spike’s growth, and vice versa, thus reinforcing their very real connection throughout the series.

Moving on, the scene between Buffy and Angel at the docks is suitably melodramatic, but I love how it serves the larger purpose of setting up the viewer to be unprepared for the other shoe to drop. Frankly, the overkill of Buffy and Angel melodrama seen in “Bad Eggs” [2×12] and “Surprise” would begin to become insufferable if there wasn’t a glorious payoff right around the corner. I have to commend Sarah Michelle Gellar for pulling off such a believable ‘girl experiencing first love’ routine — it makes it much easier for me to try to put myself in her shoes and have some empathy and understanding for what’s going through her heart and head. Boreanaz isn’t as affecting, but he gets the job done nicely as well, playing off Gellar. I will also admit to finding the Claddagh ring a really sweet romantic gesture from Angel. Naturally, right before Angel tells Buffy he loves her, a vampire jumps into frame, which feels like a nice little call back to the opening scene of the season (with a vampire appearing as Willow and Xander lean in for a kiss).

Although there was some very subtle setup for it, the reveal that Jenny isn’t entirely who she appears to be is still a bit of a shocker, yet thematically right at home in Season 2. Janus (from “Halloween” [2×06]) is still metaphorically flexing his influence on the story. The knowledge that Jenny is a member of the gypsy tribe that cursed Angel with a soul nicely ties her into the larger story and gives the character some needed additional texture. Jenny’s attempt to separate Buffy and Angel works out nicely for her: the Judge’s arm gives her an excuse to suggest that Angel get on a ship headed to the other side of the earth to hide it, which would separate them for months. It’s a good plan, at least until Spike’s crew gets the arm back.

It’s interesting that Jenny’s uncle makes an important point about the duty to her people and cultural heritage in the same episode Angel references his heritage, pre-vampire, when presenting the Claddagh ring to Buffy. What I think this connection means is that, in both cases, their pasts are important and still relevant to both of their lives. This is especially important when thinking about Angel. We eventually (“Becoming Pt. 1” [2×21]) will find out just what kind of person he was before being lured by Darla in that alley: an aimless, drunken, overgrown adolescent, which helps inform why he still lacks the discipline required to keep Buffy at a romantic distance. When Buffy decides to make her romantic move, Angel briefly suggests that it might not be such a great idea. With how much Angel has done and seen in his life he, more than Buffy, should be expected to show restraint. Unfortunately, when Buffy pushes the issue, Angel just gives in, confirming what he’ll eventually admit to Buffy in “Amends” [3×10]: “Look, I’m weak. I’ve never been anything else.”

The Judge doesn’t do a lot in “Surprise” because his purpose in the story doesn’t materialize until “Innocence” [2×14]. There are going to be a lot of actions that will soon be judged, both by the characters and us as viewers. I’ll dive into all of that in “Innocence” [2×14]. One bit I enjoyed here was how he immediately points out that Spike and Drusilla “stink of humanity… you share affection and jealousy.” Spike has retained more of his humanity in the transition to a vampire than Angel. Why is this? Well, I think it speaks to who both of these people were before they got turned. This will be looked into more after we get additional background on both of these vampires farther down the Buffyverse road.

During Drusilla’s party there’s a very fitting song titled “Transylvanian Concubine” playing in the background. The final lyric of this song is a great summary of Buffy’s big choice in the final moments of “Surprise”: “What have you learned from what has been shown?” In Buffy’s case, not enough it seems. Now the consequences are knocking at the door.

“Surprise” is a fabulous episode that doesn’t get much attention because of what comes after it. I think it would be a mistake to ignore just how seamlessly it utilizes all of the setup that has been building towards this moment, while also setting up the next set of stories. Its use of haunting, surreal music is revealing, emotive, and really pulled me into what the episode was trying to accomplish. “Surprise” also does a great job furthering Buffy’s arc and adding some depth to others’. “Innocence” [2×14] may blow the show open, but “Surprise” is no slouch.

 


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Buffy telling Angel to “surprise” her with his birthday gift. Big mistake! This starts a tradition of traumatic birthdays for Buffy.
+ When Buffy tells Giles about Angel dying in her dream, he puts on like it’s probably nothing, but after she leaves his face has plenty of worry lines.
+ The way Willow tells Oz “well, you could be my… my date”, is adorable enough to make me just melt away.
+ Xander’s little parable of what Buffy and Angel might be like as a couple down the road isn’t a bad guess, even if it’s likely coming from a mean spirited place.
+ Buffy’s hilarious observation that the vampire Dalton keeps getting caught stealing things.
+ Oz’s awesome reaction to seeing Buffy slay a vampire for the first time. “Actually, it explains a lot!”
+ Drusilla having way, way too much fun threatening to poke Dalton’s eyeballs out.
+ The quick side shot of Jenny at Drusilla’s party, prepping Buffy for the eventual knowledge that Jenny might have some involvement in what’s going on here.
+ Ah, poor Dalton didn’t deserve that fate. At least his death looked cool!
+ Drusilla’s almost orgasmic reaction to seeing the Judge do his thing.
+ Drusilla confirming that she really did share dreams with Buffy. This presents a fascinating intersection of Drusilla’s psychic ability and Buffy’s prophetic slayer dreams.
+ The apocalyptic music playing after Buffy and Angel escape from the Judge not really being about the Judge. Rather, it’s setting up the tension for the much scarier threat about to be unleashed: Angelus.

– The Judge is really silly-looking. It’s also too bad they had to use the same actor who played Luke in “Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1×01] for the Judge. The guy has quite a distinct voice.
– The Judge representing another apocalypse plot. There doesn’t need to be a threat of an apocalypse to have high stakes.
– Just how does Angel find the time to get dressed after rushing out of bed in the final scene?


Foreshadowing

* In the opening dream, Joyce says, “Do you really think you’re ready, Buffy?” The plate Joyce is holding then slips from her fingers and smashes to pieces on the ground. It’s obvious that this is primarily referencing the end of the episode, but it’s also eerily identical to the first moment Joyce shows symptoms of the illness (see “Out of My Mind” [5×04]) that will lead to her death in Season 5. Both times the dish breaks apart in the very same spot, and both times Buffy isn’t remotely ready for what’s about to happen. I’ll repeat Joyce’s line: “Do you really think you’re ready, Buffy?” Yikes!
* Spike is downing a lot of alcohol throughout “Surprise”, which he tends to turn to when he isn’t particularly happy. Being stuck in that wheelchair has really got Spike down, which will play an increasingly important role in the rest of Season 2.


[Score]

96/100

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57 thoughts on “Buffy 2×13: Surprise”

  1. [Note: Austin posted this comment on August 21, 2007.]

    “No sure way to guard against sunlight” ? I can think of a few, airmail himself and the hand in a box to Nepal…oh well doesn’t really matter since he didn’t go.

    Xander: I feel a birthday spanking coming on!
    Jenny: I’d curb that instinct if I were you.
    Xander: (Speaking into coat, secret agent style) Check, cancel spanking.

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  2. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on October 13, 2007.]

    I don´t have enough words to do this episode justice. This is simply amazing, from start to finish. I love Spike and Drusilla, a joy to watch everytime. Drusilla is very creepy and a great character. Love the acting of everyone involved in this episode. This is a truly compelling, funny and heartbreaking episode.

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  3. [Note: Andrew posted this comment on January 11, 2008.]

    Hmm.
    Certainly isn’t a bad pair of episodes, and it does admittedly represent a new direction for the series, which is good, but my problem with it simple this:
    We have three relationships going on here: Willow/Oz, Xander/Cordelia and Buffy/Angel. The episodes focus on the only one of these that is completely uninteresting. Angel and Buffy, as a couple, are frankly dull. The best bits of both episodes were the Willow/Oz and Xander/Cordelia bits. Worse yet, the secondary plot, the Judge, while a long way from being bad, was good only because of Spike and Drusilla (and Angel, actually: Angel himself is cool, as is Buffy; it’s them as a couple I find boring): The Judge himself is rubbish.

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  4. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on January 11, 2008.]

    The Judge isn’t exactly amazing, but he does serve an important thematic purpose. This will be elaborated on in my review of “Innocence”.

    As for Buffy and Angel’s romance, I think it’s different for different people. I personally appreciated their romance for the purpose it served in the story. For Buffy’s sake, I wish she would have kept Angel at a distance, but I bought their infatuation with each other and felt they had a decent amount of chemistry.

    It’s important to recognize, though, what this kind of open-heart type high school love they had means in the context of the entire series. This relationship turns out to be massively important later on in regard to Buffy’s relationships in the future. So even though you may find it boring, it’s certainly not unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

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  5. [Note: Nix posted this comment on June 5, 2008.]

    Yeah, siv, perfect, except for the little soul-loss problem and consequent enforced chasteness.

    i.e., not even slightly perfect. It ends up so bad for both of them that *Joyce* tells Angel to stop it!

    It’s romantic, but romance is not enough (at least not when your beau turns evil whenever you do more than kiss him).

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  6. [Note: Paula posted this comment on June 18, 2008.]

    I don’t hate the Buffy/Angel relationship, but I was getting seriously bored with those two (particularly the endless kissing on graveyards) by these episodes. So Innocence in particular was a breath of fresh air, so to speak. (And that sentiment made even me think of myself as a heartless monster, but there we are.)

    I appreciated Buffy’s broken heart at the end of S2 and the beginning of S3, and was kind of interested to see Angel come back, but by the end of S3 those two were again mostly just boring me out of my skull.

    I welcomed Riley. And I particularly welcomed Spike.

    I do kind of understand those who strongly feel that Buffy & Angel = epic true love forever, but I can’t really see that happen. I mean… how could it? I appreciate that they for many reasons have a special bond and that Angel was Buffy’s first love and so on, but she still was a teenager when they fell in love and not only she has grown up since, these two are also very much going their separate ways. And that’s on top of the whole “he can’t be happy even for a blink of an eye without turning into a soulless monster” issue.

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  7. [Note: Jaden posted this comment on July 15, 2008.]

    ahhh i can’t help but agree with paula on the angel/spike relationship. its just with angel i never understood what kind of personality he was made to have. this confuses me as to why buffy loves him and even more why he loves buffy. angel mostly feels like a character created to fill the negative space of the plot leaving the actual character very thin.

    riley and spike had very clearly defined personalities and attractions to buffy. with angel im always left wondering what else he thinks about aside from his subtle obsession with buffy. while seasons 1 and 2 was able to cope with this relationship (and dealed with it very well) but season 3 crumpled under the strain and left them in emptily dating with no true flair.

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  8. [Note: Jaden posted this comment on August 25, 2008.]

    oh yeah i also want to say one of my biggest problems with this episode and that is the attitude that willow and buffy appear have about relationships towards the beginning of the episode. willows excitedly telling buffy that they should “take it to the next level” and stuff like that while buffy smiles and nods along. not only is this attitude downright innapropriate (for 17 year olds) but it completely negates the powerful emotions that lead buffy and angel to have sex in the first place!

    also it was incredibly lame how angel jumps into the water at the dock immediately after buffy gets pushed in. i mean she can swim can’t she?

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  9. [Note: Paula posted this comment on August 25, 2008.]

    Jaden, whether she can swim or not, falling in deep water with all your clothes and your shoes on can still be very dangerous. I didn’t consider Angel jumping after her lame at all.

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  10. [Note: bigmoneygrip posted this comment on October 11, 2008.]

    Wow. I never saw that coming. This is definitely the ep where Buffy turns from a great show to a classic! The Judge is what Hitchcock called the “macguffin”, a device that drives the plot, but doesn’t really have a lot to do with the tenor of the show or the film.

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  11. [Note: Eraymor posted this comment on December 22, 2008.]

    My only issue with this episode is the whole reasoning for why Angel has to be the one to take the box across the world. Here’s how it plays out:

    JENNY: (to Buffy) What, you’re just gonna skip town for a few months?
    BUFFY: ‘Months’?
    ANGEL: She’s right. I gotta get this to the remotest region possible.
    BUFFY: But that’s not months.
    ANGEL: I gotta catch a cargo ship to Asia, maybe
    trek to Nepal…
    BUFFY: You know, those newfangled flying machines really are much safer
    than they used to be.
    ANGEL: I can’t fly. There’s no sure way to guard against the daylight.

    No where in there is a legitimate reason for why Buffy can’t just hop on a plane to Nepal and be done with it in a couple days. I guess that’s irrelevant, but it still bothers me a little.

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  12. [Note: Nix posted this comment on March 8, 2009.]

    In the initial dream, I wonder if there’s any significance to Angel’s apparent /situs inversus/? (Dream-Drusilla stakes him on what would in a human be the wrong side.)

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  13. [Note: Chanah posted this comment on July 9, 2009.]

    I could be wrong, but in the second dream where Angel is killed by Drusilla – isn’t Buffy wearing one of Drusilla’s gowns?

    It always struck me as a bit forshadowey (oh, what this show has done to my English!), because later in the episode, Buffy does ‘kill’ Angel.

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  14. [Note: Scoobasteve posted this comment on August 25, 2009.]

    I truely love these two episodes, but there actually is one little thing that bothers me a bit.

    It is at the very end, when Angel feels that he’s going to lose his soul and jumps out of his bed. How did he manage to get get ALL these clothes on? I mean, it’s not just some pants, but rather pants, shirt, his coat and EVEN HIS SHOES!! Of course I LOVED that twist at the end and really got the goosebumps when I saw Angel crying for Buffy, but I would’ve appreciated it, if he just had his pants on, nothing else. Would’ve also looked better from an aesthetic point of view imo. I think an Angel, stripped downto the waist, crying in pain for his girl would have just looked amazing!!(I am NOT gay btw 🙂 )

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  15. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on July 28, 2010.]

    The reveal scene of Jenny being a member of the gypsy clan was horribly done. It felt forced and out of nowhere that this would happen, especially when she says, “I know…Uncle…I know.” Forcing info down the viewers throat is not good Buffy.

    Apart from that crap-o-rama, I enjoyed the episode and the first of Buffy doesn’t get a real birthday celebrations.

    Juliet Landau is a much better actor in this season then James Marsters.

    A great scene is when Dru replaces the vampires broken glasses and pauses then says “Hurry back then” and pats him on the head. It seems improvised as James looks away and smiles before Dru goes to him.

    Not a 95 episode though, In my opinion.

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  16. [Note: John Roberts posted this comment on September 22, 2010.]

    “The reveal scene of Jenny being a member of the gypsy clan was horribly done. It felt forced and out of nowhere that this would happen, especially when she says, “I know…Uncle…I know.” Forcing info down the viewers throat is not good Buffy.”

    Yeah that was awful alright. The scene was clunky, and the “there’s a traitor in the Scooby clan” is a lame concept for writers who can’t imagine anything better. Fortunately, the BtVS crowd *can* imagine better stuff, so the episode went in a different direction.

    Not much to add to what has been said already. The Judge. Smirk. We already had the Assassins of Antara, no Takara, OK whatever; the Master; the Annointed One (ooh, scary); Geydon or Geyon or …. you know what I’m saying, every week it’s look-it-up-omigod-we-drew-that-monster?, he killed an entire army once for fun. Scooby Doo is starting to look more sensible.

    But again, that’s not really the point of the episode. And everything else is really really good.

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  17. [Note: Michael Carruthers posted this comment on September 22, 2010.]

    The Judge didn’t bother me really. Apart from his line “I need CONTACT”. Looked like the actor was struggling to speak through the fake teeth and heavy make-up. It’s badly delivered, but it’s unintentionally unfunny which counts in its favour. I always crack up after that line.

    This episode was great. I’d say a 90/100 at the most though.

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  18. [Note: Andrea posted this comment on April 18, 2011.]

    Lol, here’s my petty complaint about the Judge: why did the people who destroyed him by severing all his limbs place them into boxes that fit perfectly together to immediately reanimate him? Wouldn’t that just make it way easier for the person who managed to gather all the different pieces?

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  19. [Note: Andrea posted this comment on April 18, 2011.]

    One other quick comment: I’m always surprised at how eager Spike is in S2 to ‘hire’ other individuals to kill Buffy when he (already) has such a jones for Slayers. Admittedly in this episode he can’t kill Buffy what with the wheelchair and all, but he brought in the Order of Taraka, for example, and was quite giddy about it. When I think of Spike, I would assume he’d never deprive himself of the pleasure, no matter how long it took. And we know he already admires Buffy greatly as a fighter, and would probably consider her his greatest conquest. So considering what we learn about him and Slayers in the future, I sort of view this S2 tendency as out of character.

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  20. [Note: smallprint84 posted this comment on July 27, 2011.]

    Yes, the haunting song in Buffy’s dream is Shawn Clement & Sean Murray – “Anything”

    and the Drusilla party song is the wonderful Rasputina with “Transylvanian Concubine.”

    Wonderful music!

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  21. [Note: Karen posted this comment on October 11, 2011.]

    I loved this episode….ESP the relationship blossoming between oz and willow. I, too wondered about angel being fully clothed at the end of the episode. Really, how and why? I also wondered about Buffy and angel climbing out of the sewer. They jump through a crack in the floor of the factory to escape the judge, walk a few steps, hide behind a door, walk a few more steps, climb up the escape stairs and end up, where? The park? How did they get to the park when they moved maybe 4 yards in the sewer under the factory?

    Still and always,though,love Buffy.

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  22. [Note: Odon posted this comment on January 24, 2012.]

    re: Andrea – I’m always surprised at how eager Spike is in S2 to ‘hire’ other individuals to kill Buffy when he (already) has such a jones for Slayers.

    Remember that Spike’s priority at this point is to make Dru better – he specifically calls in the Order of Taraka to prevent Buffy from interfering. Also at this stage Buffy was just another Slayer — he hadn’t yet developed his obsession with her. Even Spike had only killed two Slayers in a century; it’s clearly not something he does lightly, especially after this one put him in a wheelchair.

    As for Angel wearing pants after having sex; well we just have to accept that happens in TV that children will watch. Even the fanservice-heavy Season 6 had Spike still wearing his underwear after boffing the Buffster.

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  23. [Note: Dave posted this comment on February 18, 2012.]

    I think one part that was sutel but funny was the part where oz comments on a vampire turning to dust and xander talks about how they are real and willow would fill him in the way he says it and walks past them the face he pulls gives a little impression that is he getting sick of repeating to diffrent people about vampires and slayer i thought it was pretty clever

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  24. [Note: JustJenna posted this comment on March 15, 2012.]

    Did anyone else notice that the Judge was played by the same guy who played Luke? That bothered me. I felt it was glaringly obvious even with the “smurf” makeup and thought “What, they couldn’t afford someone we haven’t seen before?” It didn’t make sense to me, especially since it’s not like that actor is especially talented and there are plenty of big thugs around Hollywood that could have played that role to the same level, or maybe even better.

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  25. [Note: Antoinette posted this comment on April 4, 2012.]

    @justjenna lol i noticed that too. so i have a question that has bothered me for years. did angel know he was going to lose his soul. did he know one moment of true happiness (sex with buffy) would cause him to lose his soul? he never mentions it before, but you do get little hints before. in bad eggs he says he cant have kids, that can be interrupted that he cant have sex. or in the beginning of their relationship he would warn or her that things will turn out badly. but i still idk if he knew

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  26. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on April 5, 2012.]

    I don’t think he did, I’m not even sure he knew that the curse could be broken. The reference to him not being able to have children may in fact be a reference to his body being dead and *ahem* the sperm therefore being dead too?

    His cryptic message that things will turn out badly…i think was made in reference before Buffy knew he was a vampire and thus could be what he means, she slayer him vampire? The prophecy went that a slayer must slay so i’m guessing it could be that?

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  27. [Note: Summer posted this comment on December 17, 2012.]

    lol Dave your comment made me snort. It was really melodramatic but, hey, that’s a high school relationship for you. Everything is super dramatic!And Andrew, I would have enjoyed more focus on Willow/Oz and Xander/Cordy too but they get their chance to shine later. This episode is just as compelling to watch now as it was back then. I liked when Buffy was covering her chest when Angel was going to take a peek at her back. I was like Buffy, you’ve worn less to Mini Golf!Cordelia was funny in the surprise party. I also liked her conversation with Xander. He’s always getting rejected. Also, some more insight to Xander’s family with his mom not knowing who he is over the phone and that weirdo fantasy he had about Buffy and Angel’s failed future relationship. I mean, really? You would be happy if Buffy were crying about Angel over some prime rib? That sort of disturbed me… oh teenage boys. But yeah the whole scene leading up to the sex was very charged and I liked that. I don’t think Angel knew what was going to happen but he did know, and he knew the whole time, that getting that close to her could lead to some seriously bad consequences and he probably should have listened to his gut a lot more. But that’s amore!

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  28. [Note: FaithFanatic posted this comment on December 13, 2013.]

    I never remember this episode very well because as far as I’m concerned it’s just ‘that one before Innocence’ which is one of my favourite episodes of the show. But upon rewatching it had a lot more value than I initially gave it credit for.

    Like

  29. [Note: T.G. posted this comment on December 15, 2013.]

    My only problem with the judge is that he isn’t very intimidating, He was freakin blue with horns on his head :/ Not that buffy gets any better making these demons threatening. I mean, remember D’hoffren (sorry if I spelled it wrong) He was hilarious, but shouldn’t demons be all scary and stuff?

    I love everything else in this episode. It had a creepy feeling too it, except for the judge, everything else had a creepy atmosphere. I think characterwise, this episode is just as big as innocence. I mean this is the episode that angel and buffy make love, causing angel to lose his soul. But everyone else gets a lot of character-work too. I just couldn’t help but laugh at the judge though 🙂 He’s blue! He is a blue demon! hahahahahahahahaha 😀 I didn’t hate the judge though, The thing about buffy is that it is a HUGE television drama, but it is also a comedy, So silly demons need to pop up to keep a funny balance.

    I do agree with you about the end of the world plots this show does….. a lot. That’s actually my biggest problem with buffy as a whole, every stinkin season has an apocalypse. If the buffyverse was real, the world would have ended every year.

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  30. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on January 13, 2014.]

    ADMIN NOTE: This episode review has been completely rewritten. In light of this, references to the old review have been edited out of the the above comments.

    Like

  31. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on January 13, 2014.]

    The Drusilla/Buffy’s lust connection is cool. I think I’d lean more towards Dru being a sign of impending doom, but you definitely present good points for something I hadn’t considered.

    I think Surprise is an extremely good, extremely important episode. Innocence works as well as it does partly (if not mostly) because of how melodramatic this episode is, it shows exactly how much Angel means to Buffy. Buffy is fit to be tied just at the prospect of Angel leaving for a little while, it sets up so well how much the events of Innocence are going to crush her. Honestly, I’m not sure she ever fully recovers from this sequence, never lets her guard down again the same way it’s let down around Angel in this episode, which is kind of sad. Ok, it’s tremendously sad.

    Also, Drusilla dancing at her party is my favourite part of this episode and I’m offended by the fact it did not get a + in the minor pros and cons.

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  32. [Note: StakeAndCheese posted this comment on January 13, 2014.]

    Very well written, in-depth review, Mike. Gotta say, though, I’m not exactly with you on the whole “17 year olds having sex is evil” thing. Of course, I’m clearly not with the show either, haha.

    Like

  33. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on January 13, 2014.]

    Where did I say that, Stake?

    Personally, I don’t think it’s smart, particularly in this instance where the gap in life experience between Buffy and Angel is huge, but that has nothing to do with good/evil.

    I believe the underlying point the show is trying to make, and which I am trying to highlight in these Season 2 reviews, is that losing yourself to another person/thing is very dangerous and can lead to all kinds of harsh consequences. Giles lost himself in Eyghon (‘I Gone’) when he was young — his “drug” being mystical in nature — and that loss of self led to someone dying. We also see that the actions of the past can have implications in the future, as Eyghon finds a way to come back to bite Giles in “The Dark Age”, causing more deaths and impacting his current relationships. Buffy’s “drug” here is more romantic in nature, but the root problem is identical.

    Whether in romance or in recreation, maintaining control over one’s personhood is vital to minimizing poor choices and harmful consequences that can often have lifelong implications. This is the point I believe the show is trying to make.

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  34. [Note: Alex C. posted this comment on January 13, 2014.]

    Brilliant re-written review, MikeJer.

    You’re not alone in finding the Claddagh ring to be a surprisingly touching moment. I felt the same way – and I love that they found ways to keep weaving the ring into the story, even as late as “Faith, Hope, and Trick”.

    Like

  35. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on January 14, 2014.]

    I sort of disagree that losing yourself to another person is dangerous, or at least I disagree that it’s abnormally dangerous. I think its dangerous in the same way that putting your hand on the stove is dangerous.

    Being obsessed with someone else is a staple of teenage life, and each teenager needs to find out for themselves how unhealthy it is and the fact it’s almost guaranteed to hurt them. The problem with Buffy is that instead of putting her hand over a stove top, she put it over a blowtorch. She was obsessed with someone who could hurt her more than almost anyone else would be able to, by turning completely evil and into the enemy immediately. It’s an exaggeration of the experience of being burnt which makes it more scarring and harmful.

    Most of the time the obsessed/burnt experience happens with a guy more like Parker, which is painful but doesn’t leave one quite as emotionally scarred as Buffy became.

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  36. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on January 14, 2014.]

    While I agree that there can be degrees of danger that depend on the specific circumstances, I stand by saying that there’s inherent danger in losing yourself. It generally isn’t life and death like with Angelus, although that can happen in real life too (and has), but the physical, emotional, and/or psychological fallout can still be life-altering in a variety of different ways, even more so because of Buffy’s age.

    Putting your hand over the stove is not the same thing — there’s always a predictable outcome to doing that. The range of consequences is much wider when it comes to relinquishing your personhood to someone else, or to something such as certain drugs.

    Even experiences like Parker can leave behind unpredictable psychological damage that can affect the health of future relationships. “The Dark Age” made a similar argument via Giles.

    I agree that the inclination to become obsessive about someone is a staple for most teens, but I disagree with the implication that each teen needs to act on that inclination. This is where parenting and role models come in, which Buffy doesn’t really have. There’s a big difference between feeling something and acting on it.

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  37. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on January 14, 2014.]

    Your last paragraph is where I don’t really agree. Teens act on their obsessive inclination because when it comes to obsessions they are extremely unlikely to actually listen, especially to a parent. As far as parents go, Joyce is actually pretty good and fairly close to Buffy. It doesn’t matter. Look at the episode “Him.” Same situation, except even more on point on this issue. Buffy cannot convince Dawn that she is going too far with this guy. Dawn’s under a spell, yes, and it is exaggerated, but it does parallel the teenage experience.

    If it’s not an inevitable part of teenagers to be as obsessed (or as you put it, lose yourself) with something as much as Buffy is obsessed with Angel here, it’s close to it. Preventing the obsession is near impossible, I believe. Dealing with the aftermath on the other hand is super important.

    I don’t believe Buffy’s taking a moral stand here. I don’t believe the intention is a sort of PSA in the way some Buffy episodes are. The Surprise/ Innocence is intended to hyperbolate (not a real word, but too bad) real experiences so they can resonate with their viewers and have them sympathize with Buffy’s plight. And it works like gangbusters in that respect.

    Like

  38. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on January 14, 2014.]

    You’re absolutely right that when a teen is in the middle of an obsession, it’s unlikely they’ll be swayed by convincing arguments against acting on their feelings. The parenting/role models come in before teens get to that stage — it often comes down to how they were raised and whether their parents/influences from a younger age were good role models and imparted strong values. Having strong hobbies, whether competitive or creative, are also wonderful alternatives to funnel that obsessive energy.

    This is no guarantee, of course, but it increases the likelihood of a teen avoiding these kind of mistakes. There are also smart kids out there who can reason through whether it’s worth it to take certain actions. Whether by parenting, reasoning, hobbies, or all of them, these obsessions can be safely bottled without losing yourself in the process. (I know I was able to as a teen.) It’s not easy, though — I’ll grant you that.

    I totally disagree with you on Joyce being a good parent. There are far worse out there obviously (re: abuse and all), but I find Joyce to be a reactive and inattentive mother — Buffy is not her priority. Joyce will be there in reaction to a crisis, but is rarely ever seen talking to Buffy before something bad happens. There’s precious little guidance there, and she’s often not even home. I rarely see Joyce sacrificing her wants in the way Buffy even has being the Slayer thus far — and Buffy’s the teen! I won’t even get started on Buffy’s absent dad.

    Yes, the intention here isn’t a PSA, as that’s heavy-handed and obvious, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t lessons to be learned. There’s a ton of evidence thus far to support that assessment. The lessons, though, are generally relayed in a subtle manner, with some notable exceptions (e.g. “Reptile Boy” totally comes across like a PSA). The show also offers considerable empathy to Buffy because it is such a common experience. It can both dish out subtle lessons and have empathy at mistakes — it need not be one or the other.

    I’ll explore this side of it more in “Innocence”, which is where the Judge comes into play.

    Like

  39. [Note: EdwardH posted this comment on January 19, 2014.]

    About Angel jumping in the water to save Buffy. If you watch closely enough you’ll see that the fall knocked Buffy out, thus necessitating Angel’s rescue.

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  40. [Note: Beth24 posted this comment on February 15, 2014.]

    Totally in agreement that Willow’s “You could be… my date” line is the most adorable moment ever. In fact I think it might be my favourite line that Alyson Hannigan ever delivered. You know those moments when an actor takes a line that may not even be particularly special and just delivers it in such a manner that elevates the moment to pure magic. Well… that.

    Like

  41. [Note: Stian Buhagen posted this comment on April 6, 2014.]

    Did anyone notice that in Buffys first dream when Angel get staked by drusilla, to rings falls together with the ashes? I just watched the episode and can distinctilly recall to rings falling.

    Like

  42. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on May 5, 2014.]

    You know what I noticed? Maybe it doesn’t mean anything but I found Oz’s reaction to finding out vamps are real very amusing. He says, “That actually explains a lot!” Remember in one of the later episodes of Buffy (I can’t remember which one or which season), one of the bands finish their song and while they’re coming off stage they say, “I hate playing vampire towns.” and I couldn’t help but see a connection. Like all the bands who play in Sunnydale seem to at least at some level, know about the supernatural occurrings there. It’s funny, also because a lot of action goes down in the Bronze throughout BTVS.

    I also can’t help but nod my head vigoruously when I read the comment above that mentioned how silly it was that the buffyverse had an apoloclyptic plot every stinking season. Like COME ON, people! 2-3 would be the rational amount, but every season is just going overboard. We get that it’s because we need high stakes to create drama, but there are other ways, better ways! Buffy writers are genuises, surely they could’ve thought of something better than this. Having an apoloclypse every season, in fact, lowers the stakes because how casually they’re thrown in there. Having too many apoloclypses make you feel, “Oh! Another one. No biggie. Buffy will save the day and we’ll party.” So maybe they shouldn’t have had so many end of days season finales. Also, one of my biggest dissapointments in Buffy is the demons. Most demons look cheesy, foolish or downright hilarious. Of course, there are exceptions (The Gentlemen, Anyone?) And Angelus himself was quite creepy, but I can’t help but wonder how BTVS would’ve been if every demon on the show actually looked scary. It would really be cool and I could even put this show under ‘horror’ in that case. Anyway, this isn’t a major flaw considering this show was made in the 90’s and they didn’t have a lot of great effects back then.

    Oh, and was it just me or does Spike already look like he’s questioning Drusilla’s motives just a little bit? Notice his overwhelmed face when he first sees The Judge? I dunno, maybe I’m reading too much into it (again).
    Anyway, love this episode! And Innocence even more!
    I simply adore the Angelus arc to come.

    Like

  43. [Note: FlyingPenguin posted this comment on May 12, 2014.]

    I wanted to jump in on this exchange between MikeJer and Other Scott from a few months back on the question of the extent to which these episodes (or the second season as a whole, really) were trying to present the case that obsessive love/losing yourself in another person is a danger of which young people ought to beware.

    I definitely agree that the intent here was to explore/dramatize the themes of obsessive love and the dangers of losing oneself/one’s identity in another person. But–perhaps along with Other Scott–I’m not sure that I see what the show does with these ideas in terms of a definitive “message” or “lesson,” and I don’t entirely agree that what we are shown should be interpreted as Buffy ignoring a series of warnings, making a big mistake, and then suffering the consequences of that mistake.

    Other Scott said:

    Being obsessed with someone else is a staple of teenage life, and each teenager needs to find out for themselves how unhealthy it is and the fact it’s almost guaranteed to hurt them.

    …and this is pretty much how I see it. My take is this: Love/intimacy always involves “giving” or “entrusting” a part of yourself to another person, and–accordingly–always entails the risk of being hurt. The trick is, first, to be smart about whom you trust in this way, and second, not to give anyone (however trustworthy) so much of yourself that your identity becomes wrapped up in theirs and you lose your own will, purpose, or individuality. Lost love “should” hurt, to a point–but it shouldn’t put who you are in jeapardy. Now, the thing about being young is that it can be very difficult to find that line–to be open and vulnerable enough to let someone in, but not so open and vulnerable that you end up overly enmeshed and dependent–because you have no relevant prior experience to go on. And unfortunately, “being smart” or “being careful” only gets you so far here; the only really effective way to figure out how to walk the line between healthy and unhealthy love is through experience–taking calculating risks, experiencing the outcome, and (if it ultimately goes wrong) learning from this, hopefully becoming that much better at calculating the risks next time.

    For example: When I was a teenager, a female friend and I, who had gotten to know each other pretty well over a period of time, developed romantic feelings for each other. A mutual friend of ours advised us not to explore these feelings for fear of “ruining the friendship.” We ignored this advice, she became my first girlfriend, and about a year later she dumped (and rather betrayed) me, and I went through a really hard time. Does this mean that I should have listened to the other friend’s advice? I don’t think so. You can’t always hold back from “taking the plunge” just because it might end badly, and when you’re totally inexperienced, you often won’t have all that much to go on in trying to judge whether or not it will end badly. You should be thoughtful and careful, of course, and you should enter into relationships with your eyes wide open–but even if you do, you still may end up getting hurt. Unfortunately, in fact, you may even end up giving up “too much” of yourself, and consequently getting hurt worse than “necessary.” It’s not “inevitable,” no, but it’s also not reliably avoidable simply by being “smart enough.” It’s just one of the pitfalls of youthful inexperience.

    This, then, is in my opinion what season 2 of Buffy set out to dramatize–or, as Other Scott put it, to “hyperbolate” in a way that would resonate with and inspire empathy from the audience.

    Like

  44. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on May 12, 2014.]

    Upon reflection, I think I should have used hyperbolize, which is also not a word, but has a better suffix for what I was trying to say. And I’m sure I’ve heard it used before, despite the squiggly red line I’m getting underneath it.

    Good thoughts. I don’t think making mistakes is the only way for anyone to learn, exactly, but as long as there’s no permanent damage it’s definitely the way that it sinks in the most.

    Like

  45. [Note: FlyingPenguin posted this comment on May 13, 2014.]

    I agree that making mistakes isn’t the only way to learn, but I do think that there are some things in life that you only really learn by doing/through experience. Some people’s “first loves” don’t end badly, after all–but they can still learn from them.

    More generally, though, my main point is that sometimes a “mistake” is only a mistake in hindsight; when made, the person may not have had enough info or perspective to discern whether it was a mistake or not–and often, in my view, the best course in such a situation is to (cautiously) take the risk, because the alternative may doom you to never gaining the experience and perspective to make these determinations.

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  46. [Note: noise posted this comment on September 12, 2014.]

    Reading the comments above made me think of Buffy cookie speech at the end of S7. Nice continuity and it shows how she has grew up in between.

    Someone commented on how sad it is that she would never be able to trust and love someone again like that on the series.

    Buffy love stories resonate so well with first love experiences and beyond! I personally like the message. It feels very true.

    Like

  47. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on April 2, 2015.]

    I’ve deliberated and what I’ve come up with: nothing. I can’t really add anything no one has probably 10x over. It’s just a game changing hour of television that proceeds the even greater game changer. It’s just great. Great. Great. Great. Probably a cop out, but that’s all I have and my heads hurting thinking about it too much.

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