Buffy 2×16: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Marti Noxon | Director: James A. Contner | Aired: 02/10/1998]

“I know it’s not love. It’s obsession — selfish, banal obsession.” – Giles

In the build-up to “Surprise” [2×13] we witnessed a tremendous amount of subtext that was prepping both characters and viewer alike for the big changes ahead. With “Surprise” [2×13] and “Innocence” [2×14], we saw that shift occur — a shift that has moved the season from being in build-up/warning mode into more of a reactive/reflective mode. Where the earlier episodes frequently put forth cautionary tales, the final leg of the season showcases the fiery consequences of getting swept up and blinded by adolescent — immature — love. “Phases” [2×15] tackled the more physical, sexual angle of this while “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered”, henceforth referred to simply as “Bewitched”, inspects the emotional side of it.

As the Giles quote at the top very explicitly states, “Bewitched” has one thing, and one thing only, on its mind: the obsessive, emotional component of adolescent love. True to its theme, one might even say that it’s a bit obsessive and direct in its presentation of it. This approach results in an episode with notably less sophistication and nuance than its predecessor, but it also has the benefit of driving its point home that much more succinctly.

Xander and his backfired love spell are this theme’s primary conduit. Let’s first think about why the spell didn’t work as Xander intended it to. Remember, in “Phases” [2×15], when Willow said of Xander that “He’s so busy looking around at everything he doesn’t have, he doesn’t even realize what he does have”? This is both true and the key to understanding the love spell here in “Bewitched”.

When Amy recites, “Let my cries bind the heart of Xander’s beloved. May she neither rest nor sleep until she submits to his will only,” we can extrapolate that Xander’s “beloved” is definitely not Cordelia by recalling the nature of their relationship thus far. (As an aside: the wording of the incantation reads like a recipe for domestic violence!) Worded like that, if there’s any one person that would meet the spell’s criteria for Xander, it would easily be Buffy. As Willow so astutely observed, Xander actually thinks of (and certainly dreams of) most women being his “beloved”, not just Buffy. It’s a case of ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’. Even though he’s finally stumbled into in a relationship, Xander simply can’t stop thinking about other girls.

(It’s particularly interesting that Xander ends up having the mob of obsessed women overwhelm him in… wait for it… Buffy’s house! This is a fun nod to the fact that Xander, too, has been and can be a bit obsessive over Buffy, and that he ultimately holds her to a ridiculous standard that is different from everyone else. The fact Amy’s spell is broken while Xander is at Buffy’s house should serve as a subconscious hint that he will need to shatter the pedestal he places her on — something that doesn’t fully happen until “Entropy” [6×18], I’d say.)

So why isn’t Cordelia affected by the spell if most other women seem to be? I think it’s because Xander, ultimately, will always be closer to hating Cordelia than loving her — they are not remotely right for each other and she is certainly not his beloved. This is also why, of all the current couples in the show, theirs will be the first to permanently implode on its own. Despite the fact that their relationship seems more solid than ever at the end of the episode, it’s really in no better shape, at least from Xander’s perspective, and I don’t think it would be from Cordelia’s either if she knew his underlying motive for doing the spell: vengeance. The one positive thing Cordelia gains from this experience is that she should not let herself be defined by what her so-called friends think of her and that, mistake or not, we should always be in control of our choices in life.

Since this is a series that is ultimately about Buffy, Xander’s experience in failing to control or understand love and encountering a torrent of consequences because of it directly parallels Buffy’s own experience with Angel. Buffy’s blind love for Angel, of course, blew up in her face, and the result of that — Angelus — is now obsessed with her in a way that’s remarkably similar to what Amy’s love spell has done to the women of Sunnydale towards Xander. In both cases, the consequences are the result of their very adolescent understanding of love. Buffy will come face-to-face with this in the very next episode: “Passion” [2×17].

“Do you have any idea how serious this is? People under a love spell, Xander, are deadly. They lose all capacity for reason.” – Giles

Giles plays an important role for Buffy in being her guide at slaying evil things, but he’s also important to her as the only resident adult in the core group. By keeping Jenny at a distance so as not to further hurt or distract Buffy — his charge — Giles shows a level of maturity and sacrifice that befits the label of ‘adult’. This is a real sacrifice for Giles, and it provides a great example to Buffy of what having control over one’s desires actually looks like. Giles places his duty to and care of Buffy above his growing love for Jenny because the success of ‘the mission’ — their mutual higher calling — supersedes it.

The villains of Season 2 are, thankfully, tied thematically into all of this, what with Angelus being obsessive over Buffy and Spike being obsessive over Drusilla. The interplay between Spike, Drusilla, and Angelus is so much fun! I have to concede that I’m always pleased to see the big villains being villainous to each other — you don’t see that all the time in fiction. It’s fun seeing Angelus try to one-up Spike in their respective affections for Drusilla, although Angelus mostly does it just to hurt Spike, who is starting to feel like he’s losing her all over again and that there’s little he can do about it. “Angel always knows what speaks to a girl’s heart”, Drusilla almost sings as the camera pans down to a girl’s limp heart that Angelus has literally ripped out. (That’s a double metaphor, kids!)

Cordelia dumping Xander on Valentine’s Day is also, one might say, heartless (pardon the pun… or maybe don’t)! Xander admits that all they’ve really shown for each other is “teen lust”, but that it’s possible it could develop into something more. What this tells me is that Xander doesn’t have the slightest clue what they’re doing and, if anything, seems to be getting bored with their current arrangement. But Cordelia isn’t sure she needs or even wants to actually get to know Xander better, particularly if the cost is letting go of her groupies. The fact she keeps wearing the necklace he gave her even after dumping him — that locker scene where she takes it off is quite touching — does at least show that there is some genuine affection there that goes beyond Xander’s lips. Although under a spell, Harmony wasn’t entirely wrong in saying, “Only a sick pup would let Xander get away, no matter what her friends said!” Cordelia’s motives for ditching Xander were of the worst kind, even more so considering that she actually has come to care about him.

As for how Xander handles the insanity caused by the spell, well, let’s just say he didn’t do anything he’d really regret. To Xander’s credit, he quickly realizes what has happened and spends the rest of the episode fleeing from girl mania while simultaneously restraining himself from taking sexual advantage of them. I have to give Xander props for doing the right thing here, even though he was clearly quite tempted at times, particularly by Buffy. While Xander comes across as a little crude towards girls at times — albeit not at pre-“Phases” [2×15] Larry levels — when push comes to shove he won’t take advantage of girls who are in a “drugged” state, which is sadly more than a lot of (usually college-aged) guys can say. Buffy’s right when she tells Xander that “there might just be hope for you yet.”

One neat aspect of the spell is its reach. It’s so cool that Drusilla is also drawn in by it! Remember what she represented back in “Surprise” [2×13]? Yep, Buffy’s metaphorical lust, which Angelus had earlier delivered a dead heart to, is now coming after Xander too! And she wants to make him into a vampire so they can be together forever. Talk about obsessed! The fact that Drusilla and even Joyce were impacted implies that, at least on some level, Xander finds them alluring. Combine his comment about linoleum in “Innocence” [2×14] with his dreams in “Restless” [4×22], and there’s some real merit to this.

I really enjoyed most of “Bewitched”, but I don’t think I find its more one-note humor quite as hilarious as others seem to. If anything, I actually find “Phases” [2×15] to be the funnier episode of the two thanks to its more nuanced humor. The primary issue with “Bewitched”, though, is how it indulges in its own excesses a little too often. That may play well with the theme of obsession, but it results in a heavy-handed impression at times. This is no more evident than in the school hallways the day after Cordelia dumps Xander. There are simply too many kids at the school either rubbing it into Xander verbally, talking about it behind his back, or laughing at him, all at once. This is overkill. There are simply too many people in the school that either wouldn’t know about something like this or wouldn’t care. The scene oversells itself and comes across looking silly.

Repetition and padding are other issues “Bewitched” struggles to overcome. After the spell is cast, we see Xander jumping from scene to scene trying to avoid the same situation again and again. These situations are, for the most part, reasonably amusing, but it gets a little repetitive after a while. The entire BuffyRat sequence doesn’t do anything for me either. Outside of the first season, I rarely feel like Buffy gets lazy enough to pad episodes, but those BuffyRat segments really push my tolerance to the limit, and then a bit over it.

“Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” is a fun episode with a sharp focus on both theme and character, but between its repetitive nature, occasional heavy-handedness, and the lazy BuffyRat segments, it’s just not an episode that is quite as polished and sophisticated as it could have been. The core of “Bewitched” is solid, but the surface has got scratch marks all over it.

 


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Christophe Beck puts together a fresh score for “Bewitched”, and it’s a good one.
+ Buffy half-jokingly asking Xander if Cordelia even knows what ‘having a heart’ is. Hah!
+ Spike getting all poetic about lungs.
+ Willow’s giddy self-realization that she’s become a groupie. Haha.
+ Buffy’s Valentine’s Day shirt while stuck at home: “Hug Me”. Awwww!
+ Giles tells Buffy, “better safe than sorry.” Buffy admits, “it’s a little late for both.” Ouch.
+ Xander’s slo-mo walk down the hallway with all the girls flipping out over him. Quite fun.
+ Xander’s hilariously poor attempt to prevent girls from entering the library by moving a desk in front of two-way doors. Haha!
+ Oz punching Xander in the face. A part of me feels like Xander kind of deserved it even thought he didn’t act on Willow’s spelled advances.
+ The lunch lady chasing after Xander! I’m quite happy this happened.
+ Xander simply giving up once Joyce starts hitting on him too.
+ Neat spell effects.
+ Oz trying to deal with a suddenly nude Buffy in the school basement.


Foreshadowing

* Although we don’t see her much, Amy has clearly taken to some of her mother’s dark mojo. This doesn’t bode well for her future, as we’ll find out in “Gingerbread” [3×11] and then “Smashed” [6×09].
* Buffy mentioning that she should probably be concerned over her mom’s ability to repress things. This will become a pointed statement come “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22].


[Score]

81/100

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128 thoughts on “Buffy 2×16: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered”

  1. [Note: Chebonne posted this comment on December 1, 2006.]

    Haha – “What rhymes with lungs”! Is anyone else getting flashbacks to Fool For Love and “gleaming”?

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  2. [Note: Kyarorin posted this comment on April 27, 2007.]

    I love how Amy’s black eyes establish a trend that continues throughout the series. What’s interesting to note is that Amy’s eyes don’t just turn black, they then also turn to red, which further indicates that the magicks will do that when connected to rage, a thing seen again in the episode “Seeing Red”.

    Or else it’s pure coincidence. XD

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  3. [Note: Melanie posted this comment on June 25, 2007.]

    I think this ep is hilarious.

    On a continuity/ foreshadowing note, the spell Amy uses to turn Buffy into a rat is the same spell she uses in S3 Gingerbread when she turns herself into a rat.

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  4. [Note: LibMax posted this comment on July 28, 2007.]

    Chebonne, good point. Spike may have a poetic soul, but he does word-music the way my butt chews bubble gum. Plenty of things rhyme with “lungs” (tongues, rungs) and “gleaming” (seeming, streaming, dreaming) – however, NOTHING rhymes with “effulgent.”

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  5. [Note: LibMax posted this comment on July 28, 2007.]

    I love the character development for Xander in this episode. “I want, for once, to come out ahead – I want the Hellmouth to be workin’ for me!” is possibly Xander’s moral low point in the entire series. And we can see how cheap and rotten he feels, sitting there holding the candle while Amy casts the spell, but he goes through with it anyway. But he buys it all back twice in the episode – first when he doesn’t even hesitate to do the noble thing when Buffy comes on to him (once he figures out that it’s the spell), and then when he dives into the sea of homicidal females to rescue Cordelia.

    I think it’s the first purely comic episode that works, a kind of comic savant in that ME didn’t really get the purely comic episodes working properly otherwise until Season Four.

    One thing I can’t gloss over – the phlebotinum in the plot is very tight and consistent and makes sense in every detail. As hugely contrasted with the Season Seven episode which ripped this one off, Him. But in BBB, the spell fails perfectly for perfectly logical reasons. The center of the charm is the heart-shaped locket Xander gave Cordelia and demanded back. He thinks it symbolizes how little she cares for him, but in fact we know it symbolizes that she does care for him, even if she’s too afraid to admit it. So, since the locket means the opposite of what Xander thinks it means, instead of focusing the effect of the spell on Cordelia it protects her and reflects the spell on everybody else who’s female.

    Likewise, Amy warned Xander that a love spell has to be gone into with pure intent, and Xander sneered “I intend revenge – pure as the driven snow.” That’s the source of the homicidal backspin on the spell. Xander didn’t want Cordelia to fall in love with him so that he could have her, he wanted to reject her and make her suffer. So at the first hint of rejection, the spell sours into violent rage, beginning with Buffy. Xander was really a dead duck until Amy breezed in and turned the proceedings into a chickfight. Giles in turn rescued Xander from Amy and Jenny, but eventually all the gals turned on Xander just like Buffy did.

    Neat to see that even in a comic episode, logic and consistency mattered.

    Oh, one more little thing, I like the shot at the end of the scene when Xander blackmails Amy. The way it’s framed when Amy looks around him at Cordelia, it’s almost as if she’s some evil thing that’s just popped out of his chest a la Alien.

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  6. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on October 14, 2007.]

    One of the most funny episodes of the entire series. I´m laughing like crazy everytime. What I love the most is Buffy with the raincoat and the girl mob. It´s so funny to see that even the lunch lady is affected.

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  7. [Note: Plain Simple posted this comment on November 14, 2007.]

    As we find out later in the series (it might even be in Angel the Series) Spike was a failed poet in his pre-vampire time, which makes his ‘lungs’ remark even funnier in retrospect.

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

    Damn good. I actually think this is my favourite episode so far (yes, I haven’t watched Buffy ’till now. Sue me). Halloween, School Hard, and the previous episode, Phases, all give it a run for it’s money, though.
    The scene in Xander’s bedroom with him and Willow was just brilliant. But I think my absolute favourite bit was Amy casting the spell to turn Buffy into a rat- she sounds and looks so cool while doing it. It’s also nice that, instead of getting up, pointing her arms at Buffy, and casting the spell, she begins casting it while still down, and gets up ready to point at Buffy at it’s completion. This is eminently sensible.

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  9. [Note: Bill posted this comment on February 8, 2008.]

    The way in which Xander is treated is actually completely realistic, not just for Xander, but also for the classic cool person dating the very uncool person and they break-up scenario. But there are a few reasons why the reactions that Xander gets fit perfectly,

    1) Xander is known, but not for the reasons he wants to be known. As the first three years show he is very well known at his school for being a giant joke. He thinks he’s being funny and he tries to hide behind his attempt to be the class clown, but at the end of the day he fails in that regard as well. His fellow students don’t regard him as the class clown, they view him as truly pathetic, and this plays out in all his interactions with other students, especially the popular ones where he is always the butt of the joke.

    2) Cordelia is incredibly well known, and the Prom Queen figure slumming it with one of the most pathetic figures in the school would be known by just about everyone. It doesn’t matter what Cordelia sees in Xander, because all the rest of the school sees is the most popular girl in school with the biggest loser in the school. That doesn’t make sense to them, and leads to the reactions.

    This brings us to the reactions, all of the above adds to what you get, fellow students laughing at and mocking Xander. The break-up was initialized by Cordy and this further proves to the students that Xander is a loser, and that this is just one more case of him showing just how big of a loser he can be. Not only was he dumped, but he was dumped on Valentine’s Day. In that situation, at any school in America, someone like Xander would be mocked and ridiculed for all he is worth, because that is how the high school social strata operates.

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  10. [Note: Fed posted this comment on September 26, 2008.]

    I don’t know. If a girl would out of the blue act incredibly attracted to me even if I didn’t cast a love spell I’d be really reluctant to give in, especially as Buffy has gone on record to say she doesn’t like Xander like that.

    This is why I never bought Buffy thanking him for not taking advantage of her during her bewitched period as it would for a normal person like him be considered false and essentially ‘rape’.

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  11. [Note: Rekidk posted this comment on November 11, 2008.]

    First-time Buffy-watcher, first-time commenter.

    I just wanted to note that Cordelia going to her locker to remove the necklace that she had secretly been wearing was incredibly touching, and possibly the highlight of the episode for me (despite all the other awesomeness that was going on).

    BTW, great reviews! I love your site – you help me pick up on all the things that I miss when watching Buffy. 😀

    Like

  12. [Note: Sam posted this comment on November 22, 2008.]

    Delicious. Hands down the funniest episode in the entire series, and quotable from beginning to end. Great review, Mike! Some of my faves:

    Drusilla: Oh Angel!
    Angelus: I knew you’d like it. I found it in a quaint little shopgirl.

    Giles: Valentine’s Day. Oh, yes. Angel nails a puppy to…
    Buffy: Skip it.
    Giles: But he…
    Buffy: I don’t wanna know. I don’t have a puppy. Skip it.
    Giles: Right you are.

    Xander: I don’t want to use force!
    Willow: Force is okay.

    Amy: He loves me.
    Jenny: No one can love two people at once. What we have is real.
    Giles: Instead of making me ill, why don’t you sit down and try to help me.

    Cordelia: What are you doing? Make me yak!
    Joyce: Cordelia, go back upstairs.
    Cordelia: Gross, I think not… and keep your mom-aged mitts off my boyfriend. Former! Why has everyone gone insane?
    Xander: Is it so hard for you to believe that women find me attractive?
    Cordelia: The only way you could get girls to like you would be witchcraft.
    Xander: That is such a… okay, good point.

    Cordelia: I do what I wanna do, I wear what I wanna wear, and you know what, I date whoever the hell I wanna date… no matter how lame he is.

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  13. [Note: Emily posted this comment on March 9, 2009.]

    I think it’s incredibly ironic that Angel tells Spike that his plan of ripping Buffy’s lungs out “lacks poetry” when it’s really William the Bloody who’s the poet.

    Another part that’s very well done in this episode is that they were once again stuck in the basement, which is where I think Cordelia was beginning to think of getting back together with him

    Putting the wood together to block people even if they got through the door was also a nice foreshadowing of Xander’s future carpenter ability.

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  14. [Note: Nix posted this comment on March 14, 2009.]

    LibMax, nice comment on the source of the homicidal backspin, but I think there’s something more to it. The original love spell was to ‘Diana, goddess of love and the hunt’. Thus, when each affected woman’s protestations of love was rejected, she turned to the hunt instead…

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  15. [Note: Leo posted this comment on April 4, 2009.]

    Okay, maybe I just have a sick mind, and I’ve watched too much season six or whatever, but am I the only one who thought Angel wasn’t going to Buffy’s house to kill her? When I first saw the episode, and he makes the remark about “Perfect. I wanted to do something special for Buffy – actually – to Buffy. But this is so much better.” I got the feeling he was talking about some kind of rape. I dunno, I mean, Angelus is damnright cruel, and it is Valentines day. Seems like his kind of thing to do. But I spose it all depends on how you take his comment. And we know how messed up that would make Buffy, especially after seeing how Spike’s attempt hurt her.

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  16. [Note: Emily posted this comment on May 11, 2009.]

    Leo, I don’t think that’s so far out there. The only question, if this is true, is why didn’t he rape her?

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  17. [Note: O_Hai posted this comment on May 17, 2009.]

    The thing I love about this series is the fact that the writers weren’t afraid to break from the darkness and drama (both of which are surprisingly potent) and have a little fun every now and then, and lots of goofy fun was had here.

    “I know what your face wants!” *BAM* Easily my favorite moment of the episode!

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  18. [Note: Sunburn posted this comment on September 19, 2009.]

    Love this too, and my absolute favourite bits are Giles’s reactions to Jenny falling under the spell too… the way he loses his doubts *extremely* quickly when he notices Jenny involuntarily stroking Xander, then the way he nearly leaves without her but rushes back to retrieve her and drag her reluctantly away! LOL-o-rama!

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  19. [Note: Nia posted this comment on January 22, 2010.]

    Leo, I always wondered about whether or not Angelus was planning on raping Buffy in that scene too. As well as when he goes to the hospital to see her in Killed by Death. Both times he didn’t meet up with Buffy because Xander was there. We know that Angelus was a rapist(Holtz wife, nuns, etc).

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  20. [Note: Lizzie posted this comment on June 29, 2010.]

    Xander: “Blackmail is such an ugly word.”

    Amy: “I didn’t say blackmail.”

    Xander: “Yeah, but I’m about to blackmail you so I thought I’d bring it up.”

    Choking with laughter!

    Like

  21. [Note: Aeryl posted this comment on July 2, 2010.]

    The one thing I always thought, was that since the spell was to make Cordy fall in love with Xander, and she already was, that was why she was unaffected, and it bounced onto to everyone else.

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  22. [Note: Dan posted this comment on August 17, 2010.]

    I just saw a rerun of this episode, and I remembered something: Angel nearly killed Xander in this episode. He was hilariously saved (for a minute) by Drusilla, but there’s no doubt what was about to happen. As far as I’m concerned all the Angel lovers who rag on Xander because he didn’t tell Buffy that Willow was attempting to restore his soul at the end of the season and that he was the most vocal in his disapproval of Buffy’s behavior re: Angel next season can suck it. I don’t care how much my friend is in love with a guy, if he tried to kill me, I’d behave the way Xander does as well. I’m guessing people tend to forget about this attempted murder because it happens in a light-hearted episode, but I don’t blame Xander for remembering it. I knew there was a reason I didn’t blame the guy in those instances and it was nice to see it for myself again.

    This episode is definitely a comic highlight in the series’ entire run. Giles is in fantastic disgusted form and Xander’s faceplant on the table when Joyce starts putting the moves on him is priceless. I love how Charisma Carpenter delivered the “…my boyfriend! Former!” line in this scene too. Nicholas Brendon plays the straight man really well here.

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  23. [Note: DarthMarion posted this comment on August 18, 2010.]

    You know, Willow is trying to kill him here too. If Giles comes in and say that Xander has a choice between reversing the spell or kill her, well it’s obvious… He tried to rape Buffy in season one (in an episode disturbingly reminiscent of the Angelus arc). They are many examples of scoobies almost killing the others because of a change of personality induced by magic. And when you are offered to restore their original personality why would you kill them?

    Xander’s behavior is understandable. It is, but his lack of respect for Buffy’s (quite rational) decisions and autonomy on this is distasteful. I don’t despise his hurting feelings, his anger or his rejection of Angel, I despise his lashing out on Buffy, his acid words against her. Ther others can control themselves, I believe I’m not asking too much from him.

    For the record I’m far from an Angel lover ^^.

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  24. [Note: Dimitri posted this comment on October 28, 2010.]

    The thing with Cordelia secretly wearing the neclace and removing it by hinding behind her locker is just so.. emotional!

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  25. [Note: Afterthebattle posted this comment on December 29, 2010.]

    I like that Buffy says that Amy is “the last person that should be messing with that stuff” when talking about magic.

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  26. [Note: debisib posted this comment on January 6, 2011.]

    Xander: we should be safe up here

    Angelus: works in theory (pulls xander out the window)

    One of Angel’s most badass moments… how did no one mention this?

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  27. [Note: Captain Haddock posted this comment on September 13, 2011.]

    Slight nitpick, but in high school, we used to say things like, “way to get dumped, dumpee mc dumperson” all the time to each other, then we’d have a five second slap fight. Yes, we were jerks, but we were also 15 and very influenced by television. Besides, in a cliquey school like Sunnydale, I can totally see one of the students saying something like that, especially to a character as low on the totem pole as Xander.

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  28. [Note: sigmuphi posted this comment on June 3, 2012.]

    Surprised that no one has pointed this out so far: a subtle reinforcement of how Giles views his responsibility as Watcher (and his affection for Buffy). When he and Amy are working on reversing the spells, which one does he have her reverse first? The scenes are rotating rapidly between the murderous rampage of Xander’s countless rejected lovers and the Buffy-rat’s encounter with the rat trap, inter-cut with the progress on the spells. And even though we’re seeing the urgency — that imminent death may be a consequence of both spells — it’s Hecate, not Diana, who hears the first plea.

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  29. [Note: ItAin’tAeschylus posted this comment on August 7, 2012.]

    I was surprised by the show’s research department in this episode. They get Hecate right: Greek godess of magic and sorcery (among other things). But they’re off about “Diana” (Artemis is the Greek name). Artemis IS the goddess of the hunt, but she had nothing to do with romantic/erotic love. That was Aphrodite and/or Eros. Just a nitpicky remark from a Greek mythology buff(y).

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  30. [Note: Ryan ONeil posted this comment on August 27, 2012.]

    Which is exactly why the ritual didn’t work: the writers didn’t not do their research, Amy did not, and invoking the goddess of the hunt instead of the goddess of love turned everybody violent, as they viewed him more as prey (interesting inversion of the hyena-possession) than as a purely romantic interest

    is what I’m telling myself

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  31. [Note: Rob W posted this comment on August 29, 2012.]

    Amy’s spell at the beginning of the episode shows that she was already headed down the wrong path with magic, but I have to wonder whether Xander might have pushed her a little farther down it. She initially objected to the impure use of a love spell, but gets talked into compromising that principle. Seeds of S6 & 7 being sown here?Also, excellent — and unexpected — use of Drusilla here.

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  32. [Note: Ryan ONeil posted this comment on November 7, 2012.]

    Dru was HILARIOUS!!Two more things I just realized:1) Xander and Cordelia both realize that being popular isn’t necessarily what they want (another supernatural high school metaphor with Xander getting the supernatural part).2) Xander forgot BOTH lessons he learned in this episode: don’t mess around with magic (if he was telling the truth in the musical instead of just covering for Dawn), and how hideously it sucks to be broken up with on Valentine’s Day (or right before a wedding: right decision, certainly, WRONG time)

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  33. [Note: Summer posted this comment on December 18, 2012.]

    This ep is probably top 10 for me in the series… it’s an old favorite but looking back at it now it accomplishes a lot. I like the theory about the love spell not working on Cordy cuz she’s already in love. I’m gonna go with that 🙂

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  34. [Note: Bleedin’ Whedon posted this comment on February 23, 2013.]

    One of my favorite touches in this episode: Xander blocks the library door, then Buffy walks right in, ’cause it’s a pull door.

    Also: Xander falls from a roof onto his back, then gets right up. I know this happens all the time in TV and movies, but damn, that’s a serious MOI for spine.

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  35. [Note: Great Whazoo posted this comment on March 9, 2013.]

    Amy invokes the powers of Dianna, goddess of love and of the hunt. She speaks that in her cantation and is mythicalogically correct. Therefore, the rejection of love brings the hunter and prey action. I’m thinking that’s a decent plot line.

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  36. [Note: telephoto1 posted this comment on December 10, 2013.]

    5 words…Sarah in nothing but a raincoat. That alone gives this ep an A for me.

    Seriously, this is one of the funnier and least dark eps for me. I also like how Cordy grows as a person by the end of the episode. As to the comment about Angel wanting to do something “TO” Buffy…this was likely referring to torture. Angelus was a big fan of it.

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  37. [Note: Luvtennis posted this comment on December 17, 2013.]

    It could be argued that Diana, Aphrodite, and Hecate are all manifestation of the great Goddess. Interestingly, the three girls are themselves, avatars of the three: Buffy, the huntress (Artemis);Willow, the sorceress and ruler of the underworld (Hecate) ;and Cordelia, the Goddess of love and the seer (Aphrodite). Buffy the slayer, Willow the witch, Cordy the bearer of the visions.

    Joss knows his Joseph Campbell. The slain and resurrected lover of the great mother – Angel. Yeah, lots going on in Whedon’s head.

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  38. [Note: Crazy Chicken posted this comment on December 21, 2013.]

    The best thing is xanders expression during most of the episode – like a stungrenade went off God i love that episode, it makes me laugh so hard when i see his face – one of the early episodes that also shows what the series can do when everything works.

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  39. [Note: Spuffy4eva posted this comment on January 12, 2014.]

    Why does Spike talk about something with poetry disdainfully-I mean it could elicit memories of Cecily’s rejection but surely he’s over her by now. I just don’t get why he’s the one not going for the poetry.

    Then again he was into the word poetry more than visual. Hilarious lines though-love this episode-it’s one of my favourites and I always look forward to it!

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  40. [Note: T.G. posted this comment on March 3, 2014.]

    But….but….. this episode is funny 😦 lol but I see your points. The lazyrat segments aren’t the writers fault, SMG wasn’t available though.

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  41. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 3, 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.

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  42. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on March 3, 2014.]

    I don’t know… I can’t put my finger on why… but I think you underrated this episode a bit… But that’s just my opinion

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  43. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    Let me know if you find your finger placement. Then a discussion can ensue. 🙂

    Would it be that you found it a lot funnier than I did? That’s usually the case with this episode.

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  44. [Note: Alex C. posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    Sorry MikeJer, this is the first of your updated reviews where I have to sound a note of disagreement. 😦

    We’ll just have to pin this one down to a difference of taste, but the comedy in this episode comes off to me as pure gold, from beginning to end. The dialogue is sparkling from start to finish, and many of the small moments – like Buffy making her entrance into the library after Xander blocked the door – are gems.

    You’re right that the Walk of Shame down the hallway is a tad unrealistic, but it plays so well that I forgive it for that.

    YMMV, but I think that BB&B is worth a solid 90, at least.

    Love reading the updated reviews though – can’t wait for “Passion”!

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  45. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    The scratch-marked surface is intentionally that way in order to generate laughs. If you find it funny, it works like gangbusters. to the episodes credit, most people, myself included, find the episode very funny. If you don’t find an episode intended to be funny to be funny, that’s always going to cause a problem, though. I feel the same way about Living Conditions

    More to the heart of the episode, I disagree with these two paragraphs:

    When Amy recites, “Let my cries bind the heart of Xander’s beloved. May she neither rest nor sleep until she submits to his will only,” we can extrapolate that Xander’s “beloved” is definitely not Cordelia by recalling the nature of their relationship thus far. (As an aside: the wording of the incantation reads like a recipe for domestic violence!) Worded like that, if there’s any one person that would meet the spell’s criteria for Xander, it would easily be Buffy. As Willow so astutely observed, Xander actually thinks of (and certainly dreams of) most women being his “beloved”, not just Buffy. It’s a case of ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’. Even though he’s finally stumbled into in a relationship, Xander simply can’t stop thinking about other girls.

    So why isn’t Cordelia affected by the spell if most other women seem to be? I think it’s because Xander, ultimately, will always be closer to hating Cordelia than loving her — they are not remotely right for each other and she is certainly not his beloved. This is also why, of all the current couples in the show, theirs will be the first to permanently implode on its own. Despite the fact that their relationship seems more solid than ever at the end of the episode, it’s really in no better shape, at least from Xander’s perspective, and I don’t think it would be from Cordelia’s either if she knew his underlying motive for doing the spell: vengeance. The one positive thing Cordelia gains from this experience is that she should not let herself be defined by what her so-called friends think of her and that, mistake or not, we should always be in control of our choices in life.

    I don’t think there’s anything specifically different in how Xander feels about Cordelia than how he felt about Buffy. It’s a strong attraction built on physical attraction. The one relationship Xander has with a woman that is significantly different than that is Willow, and eventually Anya, though that is built over time.

    To be fair to Xander, that’s how most relationships build, especially at an age as young as this. There’s that stage of attraction, and then as you get to know the person, it develops into something more. This episode is the beginning of the “developing into something more” for Xander and Cordelia.

    The relationship doesn’t end because of some natural incompatibility between Xander and Cordelia. There’s no suggestion ever made that Xander and Cordelia weren’t right for each other, and in fact, there are significant similarities between Cordelia and Anya, someone who is mostly right for Xander. The relationship ends because Xander isn’t mature enough to handle a relationship at this point. He throws it away because he momentarily mistakes his lifelong friendship with Willow with something deeper. Xander simply wasn’t ready to handle Cordelia, or any girlfriend no matter who it was yet.

    And the explanation you gave for why the spell doesn’t bind Cordelia just doesn’t really make sense. Despite Xander dating Cordelia, everyone is Xander’s beloved except Cordelia? Because he actually hates Cordelia? Yet he doesn’t hate Drusilla? I’m pretty sure in this case that the surface answer is the right one. The spell backfired to be the exact opposite of what he wanted.

    I want to note that the character of Cordelia was magnificently done in this episode. Cordelia had to be written in this part of the season on a really thin line between good person who wants to help save the world and cruel, popular cheerleader. She falls on either side of that line too often my liking through many of these episodes. But this episode, she’s so perfectly on that line and on point. Everything about her in this episode felt real and organic. It was difficult to do at this point and Marti (and co.) pulled it off.

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  46. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    I’m going to second all the comments on the re-review and say I’m disappointed to see you take the episode down a notch (it scored a 95 originally, if I recall correctly.) There aren’t many specifics I can argue, although I’m not sure I agree with your speculation on why the spell did not work. However, the humour landed with me and this is easily the funniest episode of the season, and in contention for the funniest episode of the series.

    That said, this is a fabulous review and it’s nice to see they’re coming at such a pace. Keep it up!

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  47. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    I’m going to disagree with the people who disagree with the re-review. Maybe you find this episode funny, maybe you don’t. (Admittedly, I don’t. Slapstick. Meh.) But either way, a lot of it is repetitive and devoid of depth.

    I agree with Mike’s conclusions, as well as with his points on the other characters, but I have to agree with Other Scott where Xander and Cordy are concerned.

    I think he’s right on the nature of Xander’s and Cordelia’s relationship. They’re not all that wrong for eachother. Not only does Anya have Cordelia-like qualities, Cordy herself notes Xander-like qualities in Doyle, who’s her next love interest.

    This episode indeed does showcase and develop Cordelia’s character quite well. I also agree that the spell backfired because Xander’s intentions were the opposite of pure, rather than because he didn’t like Cordy. Amy specifically said the spell would only work for someone with pure intentions. (Though… how would that even work? A “pure” mind-control spell forcing some girl to love you? Is that like “pure” roofying?)

    Ironically, going by future events, I don’t think Xander actually grows much here. I mean, he learns a lesson about not using spells. But other than that this episode doesn’t reveal much we didn’t know, does it? Xander can lash out in very, very nasty ways when he’s hurting. Xander isn’t mature. Xander is still hung up on Buffy. Same old.

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  48. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    Does Xander ever grow and mature in the first four seasons, though? I’d argue he’s basically the same person in “Restless” that he was in “Welcome to the Hellmouth”, despite all he’s gone through. His character has developed, we’ve gleaned new insights into him – but fundamentally, to quote Giles:

    “We all are who we are, no matter how much we may appear to have changed.”

    I think this better summarizes Xander than any of the other Scoobies, who do grow in more noticeable and meaningful ways. On the other hand, Xander remains very much the same for a large portion of the series. Even episodes which focus on him, like “The Zeppo”, don’t seem to have a lasting affect on him.

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  49. [Note: Seele posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    If it helps, Amy did try to point that out in-story, and Xander did specifically say that his intentions were indeed pure. Vengeance, yes, but pure vengeance 😉

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  50. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    I find parts of “Bewitched” to be funny, but I honestly feel the more nuanced humor of “Phases” is even funnier, both in intensity and volume. But this is definitely subjective, so each to their own on that. 🙂

    As for everyone’s disagreement with my interpretation of the spell, I see your points. They’re mostly viable, I think. I guess I just see it differently.

    I do think there’s a big, big difference in how Xander sees Cordelia and how he sees Buffy though. His interactions with Cordelia have almost always been contentious and barbed. They may share some physical attraction, but that’s about all they have going for them at this point. At no point am I ever convinced that Cordelia is remotely close to Xander’s “beloved” (but rather that the fantasy of having other women is more powerful to him), and I still maintain that he’s closer to hating her than truly loving her (not that he hates her, mind you, just that he’s closer to that end of the spectrum). Even after they break up in Season 3, and even though it was Xander’s fault, he still trades barbs of discontent with her as their primary method of communication. It takes real growth from Xander to reach a place of neutrality with Cordelia by the very end of Season 3, which is when she leaves the show.

    Buffy, on the other hand, Xander completely idolizes. Sure he’ll get frustrated with her when it comes to Angel, but outside of that he’s generally friendly to her and, as we’ll later learn (“The Freshman”), thinks of as his hero. This is nothing close to how he views Cordelia.

    As for Anya, her similarities to Cordelia are mostly cosmetic. Yes, both girls are blunt in sharing their thoughts, but they are very, very different people. Cordelia was the high school bully, whereas Anya gets introduced to Xander as a confused, newly human girl with no prior history of contention and distate with Xander. Plus she has an immediate interest in him. Cordelia and Xander loathed each other in Season 1. Xander never loathes Anya.

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  51. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    I do think Xander grows in the first four seasons, particularly in the latter half of Season 3 and in parts of Season 4.

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  52. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    Of course Xander does experience some growth, but not so much as characters like Buffy and Willow. As I said, I think he is fundamentally the same in “Restless” as he was in “Welcome to the Hellmouth.” If you tried to make the jump from Season 1 to 4 with any other major player, you’d be shocked at how differently they are characterized. Xander, on the other hand, grows in a much more subtle way. It’s in “The Replacement” that things really pick up for him.

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  53. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    I love the way Xander grows over the course of Buffy. He doesn’t get many big, character development moments outside of “The Zeppo” and “The Replacement”, but there’s times particularly in Season 4 and beyond where you look at something Xander has done and say, “Season 1 and 2 Xander never would have done that.” It’s good writing and realistic development.

    Most real people don’t suddenly become adults with one big event here and one big event there; it’s a slow process of seeing things differently, getting to know yourself better, and becoming more comfortable in certain situations. Xander is the depiction of that in Buffy. I contend the way Xander takes the lead with Buffy (ummm…) indisposed makes “Where the Wild Things Are” worth watching.

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  54. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    Just to clarify, my comment on Xander’s growth was an observation, not a criticism. I maintain that he changes less on the surface than characters like Buffy and Willow for the first four seasons, and is still very much the same person as he was before. However, that does not mean he doesn’t get any character development or that the change he does undergo is any less meaningful. I think it’s just less apparent on the surface.

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  55. [Note: Sasukespecialman posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    I agree with the Other Scott, Xander grows a great deal and, in fact, might be the most realistic in his slower progress – which includes a fair number of steps in the wrong direction. I find his character is mostly discarded after season 4, and actually view his long segment in Restless as something of a reflection upon just how dynamic his character is.

    Anyways, as for this episode. Mike, as always your review is incredibly well written and insightful. It is always a pleasure to read. At the same time, I have tp join the voices claiming you under-rated this episode. In particular, its overarching narrative structure isn’t discussed at all.

    This episode, as I read it, is structured around a fundamental role reversal experienced through Xander’s spell. At his core, Xander has the most significant identity crisis of the gang. Buffy might try to fight her fate as a slayer, but it also provides her with direction and purpose. While Willow identifies with a more intelligent, nerdy crowd and Cordelia embraces her popularity, Xander is a man without a country. He is not particularly smart, and isn’t cool at all, so he mostly clings to his niche group of friends – those around whom he is most comfortable. I think it is easy to overlook the incredible sense of insecurity that results from his lack of identity and the amazing will power it took to offer Cordelia a Valentine’s day gift.

    In fact, the spell’s failure is built into its very conditions of having taken place. When Xander offers the gift, he attempts to permanently alter the nature of the relationship, changing it from one of physical attraction to a real boyfriend-girlfriend dynamic. Cordelia’s rejection is understandably crushing, especially for Xander. The reason why Willow took Xander and Cordy’s fling so harshly was not just her own affection for Xander, but because he chose someone who had been a source of torture and suffering for both Xander and Willow. Here, those initial dangers are reasserted, with Cordy rejecting Xander on the grounds of popularity – she reaffirms his inferior social status and rejects his attempt to transform the relationship itself. Of course, in fact, he actually succeeds.

    The spell doesn’t fail because of Xander’s lack of purity; in fact, it has nothing to do with Xander’s will, but with Cordy’s. It fails because his impression of her feelings are false. He thought she had rejected him and didn’t really care for him, but through the very act of offering her a gift of affection – perhaps her first such gift not grounded in lust or mere physical attraction – he changed her impression of him. Like a nuclear love rocket hitting a shield, it fails to hit Cordy because she already “loves” (or cares for) him, as symbolized by her wearing the necklace earlier, and the debris is sprinkled on the general female population. At least that is how I read it.

    The rest of the episode reverses their roles under the guise of the love spell. For the first time, Xander is the target of mad, superficial attraction, and is overwhelmed by it. None of these women care for him in a real sense (except Willow…) and, by the end, he is exhausted by the endless stream of sweet nothings and meaningless proclamations of love. Meanwhile, Cordy experiences true insecurity for the first time. Not only does she reject the man she cares for because of peer pressure – which she clearly regrets – but she experiences dating a partner perceived to be much higher on the social/sexual scale than herself.

    Yet, here’s the kicker, they both excel in these roles. Xander never truly gives into the lustful pursuits (of course, he realizes it is just a spell). Even when Buffy makes advances on Xander, he realizes the superficiality of it. Similarly, Cordy’s response to Xander’s popularity is not to hide from it, or lash out against him, but rather to assert her feelings for him – something he never had the guts to do. The result is a much stronger relationship between the two, one in which both their strengths and weaknesses are emphasized. That, to me, is the sign of a great episode. It manages to use the supernatural medium to effectively explore even minor character and relationship changes – in this case, easing the shift from Xander and Cordy making out in closets to them as a real couple. Of course, not all is perfect. Their underlying character flaws persist, and Willow is easily a major victim of the whole fiasco. But, that is what makes it great to me; it doesn’t solve the problem, it just starts engaging with these character traits and starts pushing them in different directions.

    That, and I legitimately find the episode hilarious. Easily my favorite comedy episode of the series. Blah, I sure blabbered alot, but the Xander hate is starting to make me sad.

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  56. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    Thanks for the comment!

    One key point of difference, I guess, is how we view the spell itself. The wording of the spell seems to very specifically refer to Xander’s feelings here, not the feelings of the intended target. “Let my cries bind the heart of Xander’s beloved,” Amy recites. The way I read it, how Cordelia feels about Xander is irrelevant to the spell’s success/failure. Who Xander is and what he cares about right now defines the spell’s parameters. That’s how I see it, at least.

    As for the comedy, I guess I just find it a bit overly simplistic and forced at times. But there are parts that are still pretty funny! They are in the quotes section. And as far as over-the-top humor goes, I’ll take the rocket launcher scene in “Him” over anything in this episode. 🙂

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  57. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    Sasukespeicalman – just in case your comment about ‘Xander hate’ was directed at me, I will once again say that I do not dislike Xander, and that my comments about his character development were only on surface growth. I think his arc is more subtle and less obvious than those of Buffy and Willow – however, this is more realistic and not necessarily a negative.

    MikeJer – I’ll agree that the rocket launcher scene is comedy gold, but the rest of “Him” is poor cringe humour and I do not find it funny in the slightest.

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  58. [Note: Sasukespecialman posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    Yea, I didn’t mean to get so defensive. Sorry. I agree his growth is very subtle and always feels like a strong grounding point for me in the show – hence why The Zeppo is so much fun. Otherwise, as I have stated elsewhere, I definitely find the character closest to my sense in both his positive and negative traits, so perhaps I am more affected by his development than others…

    MikeJer, that is a pretty long list of “minorpro” comedic moments for an episode that you don’t find that funny, heh.

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  59. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    No worries. It’s probably my fault for phrasing myself poorly. Sometimes I find it very difficult to articulate my opinions, even on the simplest of topics.

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  60. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    Re “Him”: I disagree. There’s all the girls fighting over RJ, Xander and Spike at the brother’s house, Xander and Spike stealing the jacket, and more. It’s not a great episode, I grant you, but it’s got more hilarity than just the rocket launcher scene. I also appreciate the Buffy/Dawn conversation about love.

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  61. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    To clarify: I didn’t say I don’t find this episode funny. I just don’t think it’s as funny as most people do. I’d rank a lot of episodes above this one on my ‘Funny Buffy‘ list. Hmmm… that’s actually a good idea for an article.

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  62. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    I guess for the most part it comes down to taste. I find this episode fun and funny, you, not as much. However I will have to disagree with you on the “repetitive” aspects of the episode. Many of the scenes, as you said yourself are telling of how Xander acts and feels towards people. The scene with Buffy emphasizes Xander’s ideal relationship with Buffy; the scene with Willow shows us the same thing (emphasizes Xander’s desired relationship with Willow); the scene with Joyce also reveals Xander’s subconscious feelings towards Joyce (remember “Restless”). While you could say that the scenes with the other girls are what make it truly repetitive, I believe this judgement is mostly rooted in your opinion of the humor in this episode.

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  63. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    Oh, it’s pretty clear that overall opinion of this episode hinges to a certain extent on how funny one finds it. I, personally, think this is the funniest episode in the whole series. The slow buildup of watching as Xander’s predicament slowly go from mildly out of hand to completely out of hand reminds me of the old I Love Lucy formula, and it has me in stitches every time.

    “Him”, on the other hand, was never an episode I enjoyed, because I always found the humor more annoying than amusing. There’s way too much of a reliance on cheap, gimmick-based jokes, with hardly any substantial core to speak of. It also feels like the jokes are propelling the characters in that episode, rather than vice versa.

    It’s odd, because in my recent review of “Celestial Navigation”, I was willing to give the episode an “A” despite its generally unremarkable level of depth, simply because I find it to be the funniest West Wing episode ever. But I still maintain that that episode worked because the humor stemmed directly from the characters, and didn’t feel out of place.

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  64. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    Let me reiterate that I don’t think that “Him” is a great episode — far from it, actually. But I find its best jokes to be funnier than the best jokes in BBB, with the jokes in both episodes being the result of a spell and an over-the-top situation. That’s just me, though. In general, I don’t prefer the style of humor used in either of these episodes — I tend to like more nuanced, subtle humor within the context of a drama. The character I probably get the kick out of the most, from an amusement standpoint, is Oz, because he’s just so understated.

    We also have different grading guidelines, I think. To me, “Pangs” is easily the funniest Buffy episode, if we’re talking raw comedy (or laughs-per-minute), but “Pangs” is really lacking in almost every other way. This is why I’d never be able to grant it anything above a B-. (I’m aware that it’s a B+ now, but this will change when I get back to it.)

    (To both Kyle and Jeremy:) I really use the four grading categories (depth, emotion, character, plot) to help me determine how an episode should be graded. Even if I thought BBB was as funny as everyone else (i.e. emotion at High rather than Medium), it likely still wouldn’t grade any higher than a B+, because I have other issues with it and feel that the other categories are only average-to-good, not great.

    I can see that I’ve struck a collective nerve here in not giving this episode an A. But my issues with it are as stated and, separate from the humor (which, again, I liked but wasn’t falling off my couch over), they pull the episode down a notch for me. Do remember, though, that a B is not a bad grade in my system — it’s colored green, which means I think of it as a good episode (gold=fantastic, green=good/great, yellow=mediocre, pinkish=poor/terrible). Judging by the reaction here, it’s like I gave it a D or something. It’s fine and all, but yeesh! 🙂

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  65. [Note: Sasukespecialman posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    I don’t think people are challenging your opinion, per se. Rather, the episode dropped by almost 15 points since last time, so I think everyone is curious as to the reasons for it. I.e. something seemingly changed in your enjoyment level of the episode over the years.

    It is all good, though. Everyone is allowed to have their own take. Yours is just usually more articulately stated than the rest of ours, ;-P.

    As for Oz, yea, he rocks. I think Oz’s departure and Xander being pushed to the background were two things that really affected my enjoyment of the show in the later seasons. Oz just seemed like such a stabilizing force in the show and was always a riot. For people that have watched Bones, I find Hodgins to be a similar character: one who can overcome the melodrama with super chill powers!

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  66. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    I recommend you avoid trying to compare the old reviews to the new ones. I really had no idea what I was doing back then. The differences you see are due to a me having a much deeper understanding of the show and there being a nearly 10 year age/experience difference (I was basically a teen with no reviewing and little life experience then).

    Oh, and it’s totally cool that people like this more than I do. I knew this was a popular episode, after all. 🙂

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  67. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    People are super nitpicky when it comes to grades/ rankings for some reason. It’s like reading those comments on the Buzzfeed list where many commenters were upset because “Hush” was something like 6 instead of 2. You call what most people consider to be a great episode only good, and people get up in arms.

    I still find the grading to be more a distraction than of actual use, especially now that you’ve started really putting interesting things in the reviews themselves, even if I don’t always agree. The stuff with obsession and what teenage romance consists of is a fantastic basis and talking point for this episode (and for all of the latter half of Season 2, really) and all people want to talk about is how they found the episode funnier than you did. If it were my review I might be a little frustrated at this point.

    …and now I’m throwing all the other commenters under the bus. Sorry, other commenters. You guys are great. But even for the best, most articulate commenters, when someone gives a grade different than you would have, it’s tough not to comment. I’m fell into this trap myself when Mike said he was going to take away the A+ for “The Wish.”

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  68. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    Huh… funny episodes transmit as high emotion? I’d never actually made that connection.

    Overall, though, there’s not much to debate regarding the humor – it’s one of the most subjective aspects of the show, and everyone finds different things funny. (For example, I love Seinfeld and never liked Friends, while my mom feels the exact opposite.)

    I do think we have slightly different grading guidelines, but like I mentioned a while back on the forums, there’s a certain line amongst critical reviews where different reviewers will see things differently even using the same criteria. But hey. That’s part of what makes reading different opinions so much fun.

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  69. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    Last time I checked, laughter is an emotion. 😉

    Case in point: [link=www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ew7bT6qP-Xg]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ew7bT6qP-Xg[/link]

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  70. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    That pretty much sums it up. I do wish everyone was more interesting in talking about the interesting theme of the episode, but that’s okay. The Touched part of Critically Touched is almost always going to get more attention because it’s a lot easier to be swayed by sentiment than intellect. 🙂

    Anyway, getting embroiled in a longer discussion would only delay my ability to get to “Passion”. 😉

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  71. [Note: Alex C. posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    If it makes you feel any better Mike, I think that the paucity of discussion about the interesting theme of the episode has less to do with a lack of interest in this subject than with the fact that many of the commenters find your argument on that front to be compelling and convincing, and don’t feel they have much to add. 🙂

    Which only leaves what you have to say about the episode’s shortcomings, wherein you placed yourself at odds with hivemind of the mob.

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  72. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 4, 2014.]

    Indeed. Well, I always have [link=http://i.imgur.com/aCy6T.gif]THIS[/link] in my back pocket to deal with the hive mind. 😀

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  73. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on March 5, 2014.]

    If being a reviewer is not simply a matter of writing words, if it is instead a way of thinking, acting and… feeling, then I am hopeful that one day I will discover my own critical humanity. Until then, MikeJer, I will continue learning, changing, growing, and trying to become more than what I am.

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  74. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on March 5, 2014.]

    Oh I wouldn’t give this episode an A either. I was just saying I think it should be scored a little higher. Maybe a B or even a B+. I guess if I were to review any episode I would have another grading category based on “extras”. Of course this would be an optional grading area; it would probably be more like extra credit points. But I appreciate your grading system for what it is, and in fact, I agree with many of the scores you give, as you do back up your claims quite well. I personally would have given a few “extra” points to this episode for its humor, but again, it’s all opinion based. Many of these reviews simply come down to taste, which they should because you are ultimately expressing your opinion.

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  75. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on March 5, 2014.]

    Oh whoops! My bad… I meant to say “B+ or even an A.” For some reason B- was going through my mind… Sorry, I had a looong day yesterday…

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  76. [Note: Nebula Nox posted this comment on March 6, 2014.]

    Although this has some amusing moments, doesn’t anyone want to compare this sort of manipulation to what Willow does later? Or even what Warren does later? And that guy in Him?

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  77. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on March 6, 2014.]

    I don’t blame the guy in Him at all. He didn’t know the jacket was supernatural. He just thought it was really cool and that he was pretty hot stuff.

    Xander in this episode is definitely a bit icky though, yeah. Amy is Amy.

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  78. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on March 6, 2014.]

    That’s a relief. If you hadn’t caught the reference, I would probably have just ended up sounding even weirder than I usually do.

    Oh, and as per your reasoning, I bumped the Emotion in my “Celestial Navigation” review up to High.

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  79. [Note: Boscalyn posted this comment on March 6, 2014.]

    I think the better analogy for Xander’s behavior here within the context of the series isn’t Willow’s violation of Tara, but her attempt to get revenge on Oz and Veruca during “Wild at Heart.” Xander isn’t casting the love spell to get Cordy back– he’s doing it out of pain and vengeance.

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  80. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on March 6, 2014.]

    -Buffy was turned into a rat so Sarah could have time off to do ‘Saturday Night Live’.

    The episode meaning is similar to the Smallville episode ‘Obsession’. It also shows the difference between love and obsession.

    I loved the response of Jenny with Xander and her whine as Giles drags her away. And Xander’s reaction to Willow in the bedroom. Hilarious.

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  81. [Note: Sam L posted this comment on March 7, 2014.]

    Wow. My heart actually sank a little upon seeing your updated review, MikeJer. This has always been one of my favorite episodes of the series, and even if it would just miss an objective ranking of the Top 25, it definitely makes my personal list.

    Like Jeremy G., I think this is the funniest episode in the entire series. I think the dialogue positively sparkles, I think the scenes of all the women going bananas over Xander are uproarious, and I also am very fond of the razor-sharp sexual menace that pulsates barely beneath the surface of all the laughs. When the women are rejected, the love spell goes haywire and their feelings turn to hate — just like Xander’s did. (I always took Angel’s note alongside with the flowers he leaves for Buffy at her home to be a rape threat.)

    The spell makes perfect sense to me — even though Xander & Cordelia aren’t “in love” by any means, they have a white-hot physical attraction which, despite their mutual antipathy, makes them start caring about each other. It may not be more than skin deep yet, but their time together makes them start to feel kindness towards each other. It might not have worked out in the long run, but I feel that both Xander & Cordy make tremendous character growth here (in fact, I think it’s the best episode for each character in the entire series, both as individuals and as a couple).

    One last thing: The writers had to figure out a way to limit SMG’s screen time since she was flying to New York to host Saturday Night Live that week. That’s how they came up with the BuffyRat. While it may have been a hasty contrivance, I personally find it less of an issue than it would be in more dramatic or horror-themed episode. It wasn’t a perfect fit, but fortunately it didn’t take up too much of the episode’s time.

    I realize that humor is subjective, and it’s obvious that you see this in a much different way than you used to. However, between the nonstop hilarity and the ever-present threat of Angelus (not to mention his delicious interactions with Spike & Dru), I feel that this is the rare holiday-themed episode of the show that actually scores a bull’s-eye. The series is still young at this point, and one of its biggest themes right now is teenage romantic infatuation, and on that point, its location is just about perfect in the series. YMMV, but I think this is a sharp, lucid, and sophisticated episode.

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  82. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 7, 2014.]

    Well, we’re never going to come to an agreement over the humor. I find the episode reasonably amusing at times, but it doesn’t strike me as anything special in that regard. Sorry. Different tastes and all. (“Pangs” is several times more funny to me. *shrug*)

    If you got the impression I thought the spell didn’t make any sense, then maybe I worded it poorly. The spell makes perfect sense to me too, although I recognize that it can be read with different interpretations, which is always fun. I tried to explain the interpretation that makes the most sense to me as I’m digging into Season 2.

    I strongly disagree with you that we see tremendous growth from Xander here. I’d argue that we actually see little-to-no growth. Aside from wanting to see if there’s more to their relationship than smoochies in the beginning of the episode, how does he grow at all here? If anything, he regresses right back into the Xander we know well: stooping to petty vengeance to get back at Cordelia for dumping him, and using Amy’s magic to do it. If Xander admitted his true motivation to do the spell to Cordelia at the end, you’d have a point, but he didn’t. Instead he lets her believe his attempt to spell her was out of desperate love and ends up resuming the relationship with her. That’s not a Xander that has grown.

    Cordelia does show some growth here though, I’ll grant you that. But the entirety of that growth is packed into the final scene of the episode. BBB isn’t particularly sophisticated or subtle about the way it encourages Cordelia to drop her posse and run back to Xander. It gets the job done, and it’s nice to see Cordy grow a bit, but that’s about it.

    As for SMG’s scheduling conflicts, that’s nothing more than trivia to me. As a critic it’s my job to review the finished product, regardless of outside influences and/or excuses. They could have dealt with her absence in a million different ways, but decided to pad the episode with pointless rat sequences. Not impressed. In any case, it hurts the episode no matter the outside excuses.

    So, yeah, we definitely disagree on this one. But if it’s any consolation: I still think it’s a decent episode overall (B), just not a great one. 🙂

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  83. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on March 7, 2014.]

    Can I just say that I think it’s strange that so many people commend Xander for rejecting Buffy’s advances? That doesn’t go above the call of duty in any way – if he did otherwise it would be very close to rape. You don’t say ‘hey, you’re a good person because you didn’t rape your best friend’, that’s merely what is expected of you. I admit we have lower standards for Xander given his track record, particularly when looking in retrospect, but I hate in when people use this as an argument for Xander being a good guy or the one for Buffy.

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  84. [Note: Firewalkwithme posted this comment on March 7, 2014.]

    True, I agree that rejecting Buffy´s advances is really nothing to write home about. I actually think that this issue is pretty black-and-white. If Xander hadn´t rejected Buffy´s advances, I would´ve considered it rape because he would´ve consciously taken advantage of her via a spell that he´s responsible for.
    Rejecting Buffy´s advances is the only morally right thing to do and I have to say I don´t really see any middle ground here.

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  85. [Note: Sasukespecialman posted this comment on March 7, 2014.]

    I don’t think I have it used to say Xander is “the one for Buffy,” so that sounds like a bit of a straw man, though I don’t care to read every comment to find out (plus, if it were affirmed, it would make me sad). Rejecting Buffy isn’t about whether or not Xander is a “good guy,” or any hypothetical about it being rape or not. It is important because it establishes and reflects a fundamental growth in Xander’s attitude towards her. I can’t think of a point after this episode where Xander really crushes on Buffy any more, and in many ways it strips (both figuratively and literally) away the very argument of personality compatibility and presents Xander’s sexual feelings for her in the most direct form. His rejection of her uninhibited sexual advances – what he had desired from her in the first place (see “Teacher’s Pet”) – is important because it is supposed to reflect a maturation of his attitude towards relationships in general.

    Buffy appreciates his actions at the end not because he didn’t rape her – he could have avoided taking action in a number of ways – but because he explicitly rejects the purely sexual, purely physical nature of her advances. It is symbolic of a minor maturity he gains through the episode and that is built on throughout the third season as well. Not to mention, I think Buffy’s advances were far more akin to Xander’s in “The Pack” and people talk about that as “rape” as well. Poor guy, no matter what happens he is doing the raping.

    I think I am coming off as a Xander shipper. That is kind of sad. From now on, all I am going to do is talk about how much I love Oz.

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  86. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 7, 2014.]

    If this same situation had happened in Season 1, I really don’t think Xander would have acted any differently. Xander has his issues, but I really don’t think he’d take sexual advantage of a friend knowing she was being influenced beyond her control. Personally, I don’t see any real change in Xander here.

    I don’t hold anything he did in “The Pack” against him either — he was possessed! Just because a volatile spirit forced his inherent sexual attraction to Buffy into the open doesn’t make Xander an attempted rapist. So I definitely agree with you there.

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  87. [Note: Sasukespecialman posted this comment on March 7, 2014.]

    Oh, I generally agree. I guess I just don’t view the “when” as being as important as the “what” in this case. I think most of the characters would have responded similarly to most of their situations throughout the series, with some key exceptions – like anything related to Willow’s growing witch powers. For the most part, the growth comes from the situation itself. Whether Xander would have responded the same in season 1 is hard to dispute, but the very situation of facing Buffy in hyper-sexualized situation and encountering his vision of her in that way is an important point of growth for the character. As I said, I think their relationship changes a great deal over the course of the show, and this is a major example. The fact that I think it also resonates thematically with the rest of the episode simply makes it the perfect time to have Xander encounter the scenario, at least in my opinion.

    Despite their flaws, most of the characters in the show are pretty good people at their cores.

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  88. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 7, 2014.]

    Indeed. It’s one of the reason’s why I still care about these characters even when they are at their worst (e.g. S6).

    Like

  89. [Note: guttersnipe posted this comment on March 8, 2014.]

    Wow. Can I just say that I actually gave a little applause to the computer screen after reading that post. Bravo!

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