Buffy 2×20: Go Fish

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: David Fury and Elin Hampton | Director: David Semel | Aired: 05/05/1998]

Ouch. “Go Fish”, similar to “Killed by Death” [2×18], has the unenviable position of being placed between excellent episodes. Unlike “Killed by Death” [2×18], though, this placement is problematic more to its own inadequacies than to the strength of its neighbors. It’s like a sandwich with stale fish in the middle (or, for Willow, an Oreo Cookie with a sour center).

In a season so consistent with its themes, “Go Fish” only vaguely ties into them, which is honestly a little disappointing. The themes it does tackle are, for the most part, ridiculously heavy-handed. “Go Fish” is funny at times though — Buffy’s on fire with the fish jokes! I’ll grant it that, but otherwise there’s not a lot of value here in what is probably the only outright skippable episode in the season. It could be argued that not skipping it is actually a detriment to the flow and overall excellence of this final stretch of the season.

One small piece of follow-up from the incredibly cathartic “I Only Have Eyes for You” [2×19] is that we now see Buffy with more of a lightly contemplative temperament, where she seems far more at peace than before. Buffy’s quips are even starting to return in force, which is always a sign that she is in a better state of mind. This is indicative of what I think is the most relevant theme I can see any evidence of in “Go Fish”: moving on, or letting go. Note that the episode starts and ends with a shot of the ocean, which I think symbolizes the absorption and dispersion of Buffy’s recent self-loathing; it’s the final grace note to Buffy moving beyond those feelings. Also a nice touch is how men are still trying to blame Buffy for everything in “Go Fish”, but she isn’t taking it at face value anymore.

Another example of this is Cordelia’s very funny monologue to a fish man she mistakes for Xander:

Oh, my God! Xander! It’s me, Cordelia? I know you can’t answer me, but… God, this is all my fault. You joined the swim team to impress me. You were so courageous. And you looked really hot in those Speedos… and I want you to know that I still care about you, no matter what you look like. And… and we can still date. Or, or not. I mean… I understand if you wanna see other fish. I’ll do everything I can to make your quality of life better. Whether that means little bath toys or whatever.

This kind of reads as a break-up speech to me, and if you were to swap Cordelia for Buffy and the fish man for Angel, I can imagine that she’d want to express something very similar to thisโ€ฆ except perhaps without all the fish references. The final scene of the episode, where she decides not to hunt the fish men, feels like it’s metaphorically standing in for letting go of any anger and frustration left over from how her relationship with Angel “ended”. Maybe. With “Go Fish”, I feel like I kind of have to stretch things a bit to figure how they fit into the otherwise clear themes of Season 2.

Speaking of clarity, one of the most obvious points of “Go Fish” is a ridiculously ham-fisted PSA against steroid use in high school athletes. Good message; silly delivery. The coach of the swim team is a cartoon villain with the subtlety of a fart joke — the latter probably still being funnier. David Fury, in his first writing stint on Buffy (with Elin Hampton) — how did he get hired based on this!? — somehow manages to tie this plot into old Soviet “experiments with fish DNA on their Olympic swimmers.” Really. The only way I can see how this ties into the season is maybe in the notion of pushing consequences into the future for the sake of current happiness.

The subject “Go Fish” seems to have on its mind the most are issues related to the privileges American men get in exchange for athletic success, which is shown to include some very crude and submissive sexual expectations of the girls they desire. Although unfocused, this certainly fits in with Season 2’s focus on sex. Xander, lack of self-confidence and all, condemns the perks offered to the jocks yet is simultaneously jealous of them.

“Go Fish” isn’t particularly subtle with its portrayal of this topic though. We see several examples of this, such as Snyder basically ordering Willow to artificially improve Gage’s grade, Cameron’s creepy expectation that Buffy should submit to his advances in the car despite just telling him that she was enjoying the lack of “romantic pressure,” Cameron later claiming Buffy led him on, the coach instructing Buffy to dress modestly even though her outfit was actually reasonably modest, and, well, this gross line: “boys have other needs.” To quote from the great philosopher, Xander Harris: “On behalf of my gender, hey.”

I think the point “Go Fish” is trying to make is that when men abuse and perpetuate these “rewards” for traditional measures of success and the institutions that support them, they eventually turn into monsters from the inside out, hence the gross eviscerations. The themes of “Phases” [2×15] seem fairly relevant here, with its musings on the different ways to express one’s sexuality and the associated consequences with each approach. These jocks are acting dangerously close to Angelus, i.e. letting their sexuality run wild without conscience or control.

Wealth, too, has its own protections and privileges, which is what Cordelia personifies. This is why she doesn’t have any issues whatsoever with the way the system is set up:

CORDELIA: Xander, I know you take pride in being the voice of the common wuss, but the truth is, certain people are entitled to special privileges. They’re called ‘winners’. That’s the way the world works.

XANDER: And what about that nutty ‘all men are created equal’ thing?

CORDELIA: Propaganda spouted out by the ugly and less deserving.

Of course, we’ll be seeing Cordelia sing an entirely different tune when her family loses all their wealth in late Season 3 (see “The Prom” [3×20]).

Thanks to Buffy the outlook isn’t entirely hopeless though! “Go Fish” eventually flips the script and shows Buffy in the role of the creepy stalker while attempting to protect Gage, the next death suspect, continuously glancing his way. Buffy is staring at Gage in the way young guys often stare down girls, and what do you know: he doesn’t take too kindly to it — “This me-and-my-shadow act? It’s getting old. What do you want from me?,” he tells Buffy, who responds with “Obviously my sex appeal is on the fritz today, so I’ll just give it to you straight. There’s something lurking out there, and it’s making fillets of the populace, and I think you might be next.”

As the song in the background at the Bronze explains, “If you’d listen, we wouldn’t have to go through this.” Gage thinks she’s nuts though, saying, “You’re one twisted sister, you know that? Cam told me about your games. Go find someone else to harass.” Then he walks right into Angelus, who is continuing to try to pick off Buffy’s classmates only to once again be rebuffed by the insanity that is Sunnydale.

It’s funny how after Buffy defends him from Angelus, Gage suddenly changes his tune towards her: “Hey, walk me home?” This is also a fun little role reversal — we’re used to hearing the girl ask the guy to walk her home for protection — which is a less weighty spin on the reversal we witnessed in “I Only Have Eyes for You” [2×19]. It’s quite amusing, and to Gage’s credit he totally warms up to Buffy after this and kind of becomes her groupie… until, you know, he becomes a fish monster and all. This is also a reminder of Buffy’s true power: her ability to positively change people rather than simply save or destroy them.

While “Go Fish” may have some scattered thematic nuggets and a few fun moments, it has equally as much dead weight. The entire episode is overwhelmed with lengthy scenes of flat/mechanical exposition. The creepy tone from the last several episodes has vanished, replaced with a whole lot of random gross. Christophe Beck’s absence is also felt, although Shawn Clement and Sean Murray’s uninspired score kind of befits such a generic, uninspired episode. “Go Fish” also struggles to avoid boring stretches, with only the occasional joke providing any consolation.

There’s some humor and a bit of depth — scattered and unfocused though it is — to be found in “Go Fish”, but there’s precious little character relevance. Buffy has shown what it is capable of when on top of its game, so I expect something a lot more meaty and a little less fishy than what’s being served here. With a little less thematic redundancy, a little more coherence, and a lot more character relevance, “Go Fish” may had attained some measure of importance, but it just can’t quite get there.

 


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Jonathan sighting! He’s not having a very good time, either, which turns out to be a nice setup for “Earshot” [3×18]. Willow may have inadvertently given him the idea for “Superstar” [4×17] too.
+ Cordelia showing off her knowledge of old U.S. presidents.
+ Cordelia’s hilarious drawing of Xander’s fish man suspect.
+ Willow getting really excited over the idea of interrogating Jonathan, which only leads her to finding out he peed in the pool.
+ All the girls in shock over Xander in a Speedo.
+ Buffy mocking the silly notion of forcing ‘school spirit’ down students’ throats. I never much cared for all that false bravado either.
+ Angelus’ presence makes everything better, but he really doesn’t do anything here.
+ Buffy pulling a pin out of her hair to use as a weapon — awesome!
+ Xander punching out the coach! A little too easy, but go Xander!
+ Xander helping Buffy get out of the fish tank.
+ Buffy still trying to save the coach even after all the crap he pulled. That’s our girl. ๐Ÿ™‚
+ Nicholas Brendon clearly being in great shape is a bit out of place for Xander.


Foreshadowing

* Cordelia’s monologue to what she thinks is Fish Xander — “I mean… I understand if you want to see other fish” — ends up foreshadowing Xander and Willow’s little tryst in Season 3. Turns out Cordelia, justifiably, won’t be so understanding then.


[Score]

59/100

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73 thoughts on “Buffy 2×20: Go Fish”

  1. [Note: Rick posted this comment on January 4, 2007.]

    Call me a tight ass, but although I enjoyed the humour, I still gave this ep. a 53. I would be afraid to show it to anyone

    Like

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

    While not the greatest episode, it provides a great balance to the end of the season. It provides the comic relief that was needed.

    It gives you a chance to breathe and laugh a little, something that was desperately needed since the beginning of the greatest run of the show – from Surprise right to Becoming pt 2.

    I could have done without the steriod metaphor, but it was one of the last good high school monster-as-metaphor episodes.

    Not fantastic, but better that reviewed here, I think, mostly because of where it is placed in the series and what it had to accomplish.

    Another Angel wreaks havoc episode would have been too much.

    Even the not-so-good episodes can end up being important to the overall flow of things.

    Like

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

    Being a lifeguard for two years, I couldn’t help laughing at the swimmers lined up on the starting blocks, hanging like wet noodles, try tight as a bow string.

    Like

  4. [Note: Austin posted this comment on September 23, 2007.]

    I think it is funny that Willow accuses Johnathan of delving into black magic, when they are the two people who eventually do get into it.

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  5. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on October 16, 2007.]

    This is hilarious. All of the humour is very timely and we see the characters having fun with the plot. My favourites scenes are Xander in speedos and the jokes about the oreo cookie and on why Angel didn´t like his (Gage) blood: “Any demons with high cholesterol?”.
    We needeed this episode, not for the plot (of course) but to relax before the heartbreaking finale.

    Like

  6. [Note: Paula posted this comment on July 31, 2008.]

    Can’t believe you left out the Buffy quote I always remember this episode for:

    “Great. This is just what my reputation needs: that I did it with the entire swim team.”

    Like

  7. [Note: Nix posted this comment on March 22, 2009.]

    I consider this to have quite a sad ending, really, because all evidence is that those things are absolutely hopeless swimmers. The only time we see one swimming, it’s moving more slowly than *I* could swim: in the ocean, a watery desert where all food that can’t float or swim constantly rapidly falls out of reach, they’d be fish food before you could *blink*. (Plus: there’s no way those things had neutral bouyancy. They don’t look like constant swimmers to me. First time they slept, they’d die. Maybe they’re creatures of the shoreline…)

    Like

  8. [Note: Lucy posted this comment on August 7, 2009.]

    I HATE this episode! Gage is the worst actor EVER to have appeared on Buffy! I was so surprised when he got cast on prison break. And the ending is just SO awful and cheesy:

    Giles:”Where do you think they’ve gone?”

    Buffy:”Home”

    bleurgh!

    I liked Xander in his speedos though!

    Like

  9. [Note: Nix posted this comment on October 6, 2009.]

    Also, did anyone notice? After her damning of the quarterstaff earlier in the series… in this episode, she used one in anger! Or she used a mop as a quarterstaff, anyway.

    Like

  10. [Note: vera@amsterdam posted this comment on November 18, 2009.]

    Can I just get a shoutout for Wenthworth Miller. Love prison break. The first 22 times I watched this ep. I didn’t know about him, now I do, and this ep. is better for it. What hottie.

    I could live without ever seeing that nurse again in the water, wet clothes are not her best look. But that’s my opinion.

    Likes this ep. alot….great humour

    Like

  11. [Note: G1000 posted this comment on May 15, 2010.]

    Mediocre episode. Over-the-top and campy. Not as bad as the worst this show has done, but still not good. Please tell me they cut out the camp in season 3. I love intense episodes like “Passion” and “Innocence”, so hopefully they make all of the episodes that dark and compelling from here on out.

    I would disagree that another “Angel wreaking havoc” episode would be too much, by the way. Take a look at “Battlestar Galactica’s” final run. Every single episode got darker and more bleak, and it got even more compelling. I like the humor when it’s done well, but a whole episode of Buffy fighting fish-men is just ridiclous. She’s supposed to be a vampire slayer!

    Sorry if this seems like a rant. This is my first viewing of the show, and I see so much potential in it. Episodes like “Passion” are really mind-blowing. Then an episode like this has to come along, and it annoys me so much.

    Like

  12. [Note: Jason posted this comment on May 19, 2010.]

    Funny; what I liked best about this episode (by far) was the final image of the three fish-people swimming out to sea.

    Like

  13. [Note: Nia posted this comment on May 19, 2010.]

    I saw a lot of potential between Gage & Buffy. I wanted them to start dating. But it was too soon for her and also I LOVE Bangel and they got back together in S3.

    I think it was half that she was bad at flirting (not that she needs it since most guys flock to her or are already obsessed with her before she even likes them) and half that she is bad at lying. And Cameron was talking trash about her.

    I felt so sorry for Buffy (as usual, she has a tough life) when she got blamed for defending herself against an attempted rapist, accused of having it coming because of the way she dressed, and lectured for dressing inappropriately. And then she is forced into the sewers at gunpoint so four creatures can gang-rape her. It’s a good thing Xan showed up to help her get out of there.

    Yeah, a lot of celebrities have had cameos on BtVS. Wentworth Miller. Shane West. Persia White. Clea Duvall. John Ritter. Amber Tambyln. Azura Skye. Ashanti. Etc…

    Like

  14. [Note: Merry posted this comment on May 26, 2010.]

    I love this episode. Obviously, it’s not a “great” episode in the grand scheme of the series (would not make my top 25 list by far), but it has this kind of genuine 90s feel to it that is the same reason I love “Gingerbread”. So campy! Though having been a competitive swimmer for 10 years, I agree with Austin- those swimmers on the starting blocks looked RIDICULOUS. Could have done without the scene with the monsters swimming in the ocean – it was just weird.

    Like

  15. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on August 1, 2010.]

    Again the library cage is supposed to be strong enough to hold half a dozen people who could turn into large fish. Damn strong that cage is.

    Wentworth Miller in a starting role before he mumbled his way through ‘Prison Break’.

    Wanting Buffy to walk him home:)

    Pretty much agree with your score.

    Like

  16. [Note: DFAS Giles posted this comment on September 21, 2010.]

    Buffy gets saved from doing it with the entire fishly swim team (yay Xander). Then coach goes in the drink. When Buffy comments, “those boys really love their coach,” is the coach on the receiving end of those boyish needs he so recently discussed?

    Have to appreciate the sly envelope-pushing ambiguity of BTVS.

    Like

  17. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on December 19, 2011.]

    This episode is a fun and light hearted, something to make you smile before the devastating two part final. The title; Go Fish is a witty metaphor to the literal swim team members being turned into fish monsters but still being a cohesive team. Also thinking between the lines the scooby’s ‘fish’ for information in diverging ways; Xander becomes a Go Fish, Willow interrogates Jonathan and is eager to do the same to the school nurse whereas Buffy users a looks and slayer stalking skills to follow Gage.

    Its fun to see Xander join the swim team, he so often derides the jocks of Sunnydale through jealous eyes. Once again Xander saves Buffy, this time from having to do with the whole swim team. This scene once agains highlights and makes palpable that Xander is much stronger than he thinks he is, noted first in Halloween. His ability to turn up at the right time isn’t as appreciated as it should be! This foreshadows what Caleb says to him in Dirty Girls; he’s the one sees everything. This trait of Xander’s is notable in quite a number of the series episodes.

    The plot itself is easy to follow and is an interesting story, Angelus manages to solve the puzzle indirectly when he takes a bite out of Gage only to be repulsed with what he tastes in the blood. His presence in the episode allows the main story arch to be mentioned but doesn’t out shine this stand alone fun episode.

    Like

  18. [Note: Sarah posted this comment on February 8, 2012.]

    The fact that Buffy is blamed for the way she dresses, as if she’s “asking for it”, is very realistic unfortunately. Even today, women who are victims of sexual assault are blamed. Every effort is made to dig up their sexual past and prove that they’re whores who were asking for it. I like that this episode addresses that, even briefly.

    Like

  19. [Note: Ann posted this comment on February 8, 2012.]

    Don’t forget that after that first sexual assault she is held at gunpoint to go into the sewers to be gang-raped. “They’ve already had their dinner.But boys have other needs.” “This is just what my reputation needs. That I did it with the entire swim team.” She’s lucky she was able to escape. The female agent in Allan Moore’s Neonomicon had a horrible experience.

    Like

  20. [Note: Alex posted this comment on February 9, 2012.]

    Am I the only one who didn’t like Buffy’s ‘I did it with the entire swim team’ joke? It just seemed kind of weird and inappropriate to me, given the circumstances. I found the idea of the coach throwing her in there to get raped by the monsters really disturbing, and the joke seemed really out of place. Maybe I just temporarily lost my sense of humour while I was watching this.

    Although I had NEVER interpreted ‘those boys really love their coach’ as DFAS Giles did, above! Now that’s REALLY disturbing.

    I find this episode really silly but also kind of sad. I thought Gage was a rubbish actor, but I quite liked his character. I liked the way that he was all macho and a bit of a jerk at first, but as soon as he got scared he wasn’t ashamed to ask Buffy to look after him. I thought that was cute.

    I love your comments about ‘school spirit’, Mike. I was actually on the swimming team at school (that’s another point actually – why are there no girls on the team?) and I remember getting a good few lectures from the coach about how swimming should be my ‘number one priority’ if I ever missed a practice. We weren’t showered with praise and treated like royalty like the swimmers in this episode though!

    Like

  21. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on February 21, 2012.]

    This episode having re-watched it recently, has a season one feel and it may be the reason i rather like it, it addresses the demon of the week and metaphors/messages.

    I did have issues with the whole Soviet union collapse and the readiness of the hospital to accept the theory of fish people and plasma treatment! Although it is Buffy Verse and in Sunnydale people accept the unexpected and impossible and ignore the obvious!

    Like

  22. [Note: John Roberts posted this comment on December 3, 2012.]

    I like this a lot better than a D grade. One Part Scooby Doo, one part comic book, and one part Afterschool Special. I thought the combination worked great. The skewering of high school jocks and condemnation of the win-at-all-costs culture could have been painfully earnest, but not with Creature of the Blue I mean Black Lagoon wandering around. The nurse and coach were both suitably absurd, too.

    Like

  23. [Note: Geki posted this comment on March 1, 2013.]

    Totally agree, if it had to happen at all. IOHEFY is so much more powerful and sets ‘Becoming’ up so much better. I tend to skip this episode (the only episode of Buffy I skip, actually… all right, so I’ve skipped ‘Some Assembly Required’ a few times, too).

    Like

  24. [Note: Gon posted this comment on March 4, 2013.]

    I believe the sexual assault is the most interesting theme of this episode, too. But I agree that Buffy’s witty line (“they’ll say I did it with the entire team”) feels so wrong in the context of rape. Also because the joke focus on guilt (emphasis on “I did it”) which is the worst message to be adressed here.

    Totally agree with MikeJer’s reference to “school spirit” too.

    Am I the only one to feel there’s a bit of an “X-Files” tone in this episode? The references to the Soviet union experiments and the conclusion (the monster is loose out there) always made me think that.

    Like

  25. [Note: Ryan ONeil posted this comment on March 4, 2013.]

    If it helps, she’s saying that “her reputation,” not anything reality-based, would be that she “did it with the entire swim team,”
    … and her primary psychological defense mechanism for stressful-to-life-threatening situations seems to be sarcasm.

    Like

  26. [Note: Gon posted this comment on March 4, 2013.]

    I know she’s talking about her reputation. That’s the problem! I don’t want to see Buffy concerned about her reputation when she is bout to be raped. I think that is the wrong message to be adressed to the audience.

    Also, I can’t imagine Buffy using sarcasm when Spike tries to rape her in s6.

    Like

  27. [Note: Ryan ONeil posted this comment on March 4, 2013.]

    Maybe: in “Go Fish,” Buffy had already spent the entire episode (successfully) dealing with attempts of that kind of assault from humans, was used to fighting demons, and was fairly certain she could fight off the monster-swimmers once she knew where they were? I don’t think she was very worried that anything would really happen in the first place.

    As opposed to “Seeing Red,” where she had already been injured in a fight and knew she would be defending herself at sub-par, making it a more pressing threat (and she had trusted Spike personally before that)?

    Like

  28. [Note: Gon posted this comment on March 4, 2013.]

    Sorry, I don’t agree. In “Go Fish” there were 3 of them and if Xander hadn’t rescued her she would be in serious trouble (she didn’t look at all unworried at that moment). But, even if she was certain she could fight them, I still think that’s not the right comment to address the audience in that situation.

    Like

  29. [Note: Alex posted this comment on March 5, 2013.]

    Yeah, I’m with Gon on this one. I get what you’re saying, Ryan, but I can’t agree that she’s quipping because she doesn’t think she’s in any real danger. The guys are surrounding her at that point, there’s no means of escape (until Xander shows up) and she’s looking around somewhat helplessly when she chooses to make that remark.

    I’m not usually one to over-analyse these things or get uptight about a throwaway joke, and I can’t really even put my finger on why that line particularly bothers me so much. But if they really felt that a joke was appropriate at that point, then why not have Buffy say something like ‘sorry guys, group sex just isn’t my thing?’ I guess I just don’t think an appropriate response to an impending gang-rape is ‘oh no, what will people think of me?’ even if it’s meant to be a joke.

    Like

  30. [Note: Luvtennis posted this comment on February 17, 2014.]

    I think the point of the last shot is that roid rage boys go off to be potentially dangerous adults. Not even Buffy can stop that.

    Also the scene of the three girls at the pool is incredible. Gorgeous, good, strong, smart. Each very different. What an image…

    Like

  31. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 16, 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

  32. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    Xander’s line about Gage in the locker room and his sneakers and Buffy’s “Oh, great. Just what my reputation needs. That I did it with the entire swim team.”

    A no-brainer episode that is still watchable on occasion.

    Like

  33. [Note: Alexei posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    I like this episode whole lotta more then “Some assembly required”. Its not that bad. Its watchable ๐Ÿ˜€

    Like

  34. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    That’s fair, Alexei. “Some Assembly Required” is a pretty dry episode, but at least it offers some crucial thematic setup for the rest of the season.

    Like

  35. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    Slow down, Mike, you’re making me look bad! (Yes, I’m kidding.)

    Anyway, I respect how you at least tried to find something good to say about this episode. I personally think it’s position in the season is even more out of place than “The Girl In Question” in the last season of Angel.

    One critique, though: your Minor Con. While I agree than Nicholas Brendon’s physique contrasts sharply with Xander’s character, remember what network this show was on. The WB/CW pressures the producers of all its shows to hire good-looking stars, regardless of how they’re written. (With all due respect to his excellent later work, I’m fairly certain David Boreanaz was not originally hired for his acting ability.)

    Like

  36. [Note: Alex C. posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    To be honest, I’m still somewhat in two minds when it comes to the quality of this episode. I’m not sure whether it’s actually a moderately amusing, campy standalone of the sort that would have been right at home much earlier in the show, and is simply damned by its unfortunate placement; or if that’s just a lame excuse, and this episode would have sucked regardless of when it aired. I lean slightly toward the former, if only because there is a smattering of smile or chuckle worthy moments, but either way the result’s the same.

    Addressing a couple of the minor pros – in the first one, did you mean that she gave him the idea for “Superstar”?

    Buffy mocking the idea of school spirit – I loved this too, also for the irony: this from the girl who used to be a cheerleader!

    At the end of the day neither the pros nor the cons of this episode really matter though – the epic two-parter finale is waiting in the wings…

    Like

  37. [Note: T.G. posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    Wow this is like, a really funny review. Well done, once again.

    I’m not gonna lie, I honestly can’t stand this episode, I know it was made as a calm before the storm type episode and I guess it’s funny, I just can’t the feeling I get when I watch it. It feels like I’m watching a nickelodeon show almost.

    One thing that confused me about this episode: how can Angel taste the steroids? He clearly doesn’t have an issue eating most humans, and most humans are on some kind of drug. (Not illegal but still) It’s just a small question.

    The only thing I disagree with, is with the minor con, people in fine shape are sometimes just as insecure as people in bad shape. Plus, he could have just been uncomfortable with his friends staring at him in a speedo. Anybody would, I would be exactly like xander. I think nicholas was perfect for xander

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  38. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    Well, I have to say I wouldn’t have rated this episode quite so cruelly, but the only thing I can conjure up to say in its defence is that I kind of enjoyed it for what it was.

    I also think when you mentioned “Who Are You?” you may have meant “Superstar”, as Alex has already mentioned.

    I can’t wait to see your updated reviews of the “Becoming” episodes. I’m sure they’re going to be awesome.

    Like

  39. [Note: StakeAndCheese posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    I’m pretty sure that Boreanaz was hired after he literally made a girl swoon in a coffee shop. I can’t find a link right now, but I’ve seen the story more than once.

    Like

  40. [Note: StakeAndCheese posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    Gotta say, Mike, I think Go Fish is more of a C- than a D, but that’s mainly because I find it a bit funnier than you do.

    Like

  41. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    Alex: Thanks for pointing out that I had the wrong episode. Typed 4×16 instead of 4×17 and missed it in proofreading. It should be fixed now.

    Jeremy: In terms of network expectations, that’s very true, but Angel was designed to be a possible love interest for Buffy from the very start. Plus: vampire.

    Xander, though, is never shown to be working out… ever, at least in the high school years. Generally people who spend time getting in shape like that hold themselves a certain way and walk with a certain instinctive physical confidence. None of that screams ‘Xander’ to me. It’s not a big deal either way, hence the minor con.

    Thanks for the good comments, all!

    Like

  42. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    A drama show has to have value beyond comedy to get above the D range for me, unless it’s like the funniest episode of the series. I’d evaluate a pure comedy series (like Seinfeld) differently though.

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  43. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    I actually disagree with this idea. To me, I think categorizing things as drama vs. comedy hurts our abilities to evaluate more than helps. Why can’t a drama show do an episode that’s pure comedy? Because it has been categorized as a drama show? That’s something external to the show that we are using to judge the internals of the show.

    On the other hand, shows we classify as comedies we tend to criticize for “not being funny” despite offering a whole lot. There’s no need to get caught up in labels. If you like something about a show, you like it, irrespective of what that show is supposed to be.

    I’m not arguing this to defend Go Fish, by the way. Not a good episode for all the reasons Mike and others stated.

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  44. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    Whether a show is a comedy or a drama creates different expectations for whether I would consider an episode successful or not. With a pure comedy, it’s successful if I laugh a whole lot — that’s about it. There are some shows out there labeled a comedy that aren’t [i]pure[/i] comedy — they are blended, which is different.

    Now, a drama can certainly have an episode with a heavy comedic component and still be successful, but that comedy has to have more meaning/purpose behind it than only to make me laugh if I’m to grade it well. If the comedy is character-based and offers some kind of growth/insight, then it’s totally viable. But if it’s just a bunch of one-off jokes, then that’s not going to cut it for me.

    This is why I doubt you’ll ever see a pure comedy series reviewed on this site. (Huzzah for the Blog section!)

    Every episode here is judged on 4 core criteria: Depth, Emotion, Character, and lastly Plot. To grade well, there needs to be at least some success in multiple of these categories. Shows that consistently accomplish this are, well, [i]Critically Touched[/i]. I didn’t pick that name for no reason. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  45. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    Sure. What I’m saying is that if you were grading Freaks and Geeks, and it had an episode that was almost exactly equivalent to “Go Fish” in some way. Would it be graded higher because Freaks and Geeks was more overt in trying to be a comedy series, even though it also had heavily dramatized parts? If so, I think that’s unfair. You are grading the show based on what it is perceived to be rather than based on actual content.

    If not, then what you say is perfectly fair. If you don’t believe that comedy makes the episode significantly better or worse by your grading system, then if it’s consistent I have no quibbles.

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  46. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    If Freaks and Geeks had aired an episode like “Go Fish”, I would likely have bashed the heck out of it. That’s not to say I want F&G to have a purely dramatic core to every storyline, but I have given lower scores to the episodes (“I’m With the Band”, “Carded and Discarded”) with more overtly comedic stories.

    “Celestial Navigation” (from The West Wing) is one of the only exceptions to this rule I can think of, because it’s a comedy episode that never feels out of place with the series. It’s basically an outlet to appreciate the comedic aspects of the series which never delves into truly unusual territory to get laughs – the comedy stems directly from the characters. Plus, it features a great level of depth – it just conveys this depth through a comedic lens (which, in essence, makes it even funnier).

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  47. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    All I’m referring to here is pure comedies — a sitcom, essentially. Freaks and Geeks is nowhere close to a pure comedy. It’s clearly a drama with lots of comedy in it.

    Comedy can certainly help an episode’s evaluation under this site’s criteria, but no matter how funny it is (i.e. Emotion=High), that is only 1/4 of the categories that episodes are judged by — it’s gotta have something else too, or it’ll struggle to get out of the Ds and Fs.

    At their best, comedy episodes will use their humor to provide character insight and/or growth while also being thematically relevant or resonant. I kind of see “Something Blue” in this vein. “Storyteller” in S7 might be another good example.

    Jeremy described it perfectly with his example as well.

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  48. [Note: StakeAndCheese posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    See, I don’t think “I’m With the Band” is a funny or comedic episode. It’s probably the single most soul-crushingly painful episode in the entire series.

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  49. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    I just realized that Xander foreshadowed how this episode would score: “It’s a slap in the face to every one of us who studied hard and worked long hours to earn our Ds.”

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  50. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    Actually, I was referring to the shower storyline, rather than the band one. I think the latter has dramatic potential, but the former is pretty much a comedic flyweight.

    Although I do wince in pain every time I watch Neal and Bill getting “whipped” in the locker room.

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  51. [Note: Louisa posted this comment on March 21, 2014.]

    This isn’t one of my favorite episodes, but I can’t help noticing that Xander gets Buffy out of a huge jam here, as he actually does many times throughout the series. And yet, he’s often unfairly treated as an incompetent who needs to stay “fray adjacent” because he doesn’t possess any supernatural powers. In fact, he repeatedly saves Buffy’s bacon without having any special powers. I understand the place Xander holds in the series, and yet seeing him save the day (not for the first time or the last) without getting much credit for what he does bothers me a little. Maybe it’s because he’s actually very impressive in the Speedos.

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  52. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on March 24, 2014.]

    I agree with your review, I do and the last scene is kinda silly and cheesy but this episode is so funny. The one-liners are on fire!
    And well, this is the calm before the storm.

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  53. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on May 10, 2014.]

    When I watch this episode it’s like I’ve traveled back in time to Buffy Season 1. BTVS is just capable of so much more now. I’d rather have more Spike and Drusilla moments. I wish there’d been an episode just dedicated to them if they wanted to air a calm before the storm episode. This season always needed more Spike and Dru! Buffy kicking their asses never gets old, even though sometimes I find myself cheering for them instead of her. Like a few others mentioned above, I probably would’ve found Buffy’s swim team joke funny had it been under other circumstances. It was super inappropriate especially coming from her. Buffy has been on the verge of rape before (Granted, it was hyena Xander, but the stakes were still very much there.) And it’s not something even a 16 year old girl can forget. If Xander hadn’t saved her, she’d be fish food. It was surprising how lightly she seemed to take it. That whole part where the coach throws her to get raped by a bunch of rapid sea monsters is disturbing to say the least. I know they wanted to give this episode a light-hearted gist to it, it’s the only reason why I tend to overlook the flaws. I didn’t have an issue with Gage, in fact, I would’ve liked to he him again, being Buffy’s ‘groupie’ hahah! And following her around like a lost puppy!
    I loved it when he said “Will you walk me home?”
    Yet another thing you’ll only ever see in a Whedon show.

    The last scene of the episode had be cringing. Wayyyy too campy, even for BTVS standards. To be honest, this is one of the worst and most skippable episodes of BTVS according to me, it’s right there with WTWTA.

    Of course, at least every Buffy episode has redeeming factors!
    The issues that they express in this episode are very relevant. I got so pissed when Buffy was told to dress more appropriately so that the boys could repress their urges. This unfortunately is an ongoing issue that really needs to be dealt with in today’s world. Girls can wear whatever they want to, they can wear skimpy outfits if that’s the way they express themselves. It’s the boys who have to learn it to keep it in their pants and let it go. It’s none of their business. Anyway, I’m going off-topic here.
    Did anyone else find Synder telling Willow to up Gage’s grade a little forced and superficial? Willow’s a STUDENT at the end of the day, she could tell other students, hell, she could tell her parents and they could sue the school!
    It just makes no sense. Why would Snyder take such a risk?

    Anyway, this episode didn’t do much for me. Also agree to the people who think this and IOHEFY should’ve swapped places. That way, it would be all the more powerful when Becoming rolled around.

    One positive thing about this episode, the change of pace at the start of the episode! How many times do you see the Scooby gang chilling on the beach and having marshmallows and just having general conversation like normal high school kids? It was also nice seeing Buffy save Johnation and be all “Nice tat! Is that a Tweety bird?” About the guy’s tattoo! Haha!

    But how big is Sunnydale exactly? The city’s limits seem to change as per the plot’s wishes. Now suddenly that small town has a beach and an ocean? Why don’t we ever see that again? (Okay we do in one of the Season 4 or 5 episodes but that’s it!). It’s just funny how a beach conveniently popped up in Sunnydale to work with the plot. I’ll never understand that town. ๐Ÿ˜›

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  54. [Note: Nebula Nox posted this comment on May 14, 2014.]

    It’s true that Xander doesn’t always get credit, but remember when the Watchers Council comes back in S5 and challenges Buffy? She points out that “the boy” has clocked more field time than all the fuddy-duddies sitting in judgment.

    On the other hand, given what seems to be Xander’s biggest hobby in life – fighting in demons – you would think it would occur to him to train a bit at something. Like learning how to use weapons, or something. Instead he continues without any discipline.

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  55. [Note: Sosa Lola posted this comment on July 1, 2014.]

    Actually, while very off-screen and subtle, Xander does learn how to use a bow and an arrow. He’s seen to be using them in S6 and also in S7 before getting a thumb in his eye.

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  56. [Note: Nebula Nox posted this comment on July 3, 2014.]

    Why is it more tasteless to joke about attempted rape than it is about attempted murder? It seems from many comments on here that it is. Both crimes are awful, but one seems to be more politically correct than the other.

    Getting back to the episode itself, a long time ago someone was analyzing the title. I’d like to add two more meanings. First, there is the typical school cheer: Go Team! Put in Fish. Second, there’s the very silly card game, which, in a way, indicates the depth of the episode.

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  57. [Note: Boscalyn posted this comment on July 4, 2014.]

    As do victims of sexual assault. My point is that the people who have been most directly hurt by murder aren’t going to be hurt by a murder joke in the same way victims of sexual assault are going to be hurt by a rape joke.

    In general, people tend to view rape as the most evil crime you can possibly commit. I don’t know if that’s true, but that’s what society says.

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  58. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on July 4, 2014.]

    Joking about rape is tasteless in a way that murder just isn’t. For one thing, there’s the sexism angle (despite the fact that it also happens to men). For another, the victim is likely to be very scarred from the event. For yet another, it’s violating someone’s body for personal purposes rather than just out of greed or whatever.

    There are still jokes to an extent about it though. For example, my generation will make a lot of quips about Jimmy Savile.

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  59. [Note: noise posted this comment on September 19, 2014.]

    But that’s the whole point of this episode, isn’t it? It’s no super well done, but it kinds of link with the reversal of female/male roles in the previous ep.
    Look at how the camera moves from feet to head when Wander walks in his red and sexy Speedos, that’d be exactly how cameras follow the body of actresses/ women to show how hot they are in any other “normal” movie or real life by the way. Even the reaction of the girls, so funny as it is, could be deemed super inappropriate – imagine the same scene with Willow in Bikini and Xander, Oz and Giles reacting the same way as Buffy, Willow and Cordelia.
    Don’t you think Go fish is about gender typical representations and subverting them? That’s how I understand Buffy’s comment on her reputation as not willing to accept these.
    My two cents.

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  60. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on February 10, 2015.]

    This episode is totally cheesy and I donยดt like the ending with all the fish men swimming but I find it very funny (the jokes are really the high point) and of course, the character interaction.

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  61. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on April 12, 2015.]

    Also, very late, but I believe a series should be evaluated by what it intends to accomplish first. Once its judged to have done so, then one can take a look at everything else to see if it rises from a successful show to an exceptional one. This is my way of evaluating.

    I also agree heavily with Jeremy. Normally, a drama series that throws in a purely comedic episode would be highly problematic. However, if the comedy is used somehow to strengthen the characters, plot, or as a form of subversion of itself (i.e. parody, but on an intelligent and believable level within the context of the series) then it can work as a pure comedic outing. An in-universe example would be “Once More, With Filling.” There’s a lot of self referential parody and most of it is comedic in nature, but it does so much for the characters on such a creative level that it becomes that rare accomplishment.

    An example of pristine pure comedic subversion would be the Supernatural episode, “The French Mistake” for lack of a better example. Not only does the episode throw its characters into what is essentially our reality via a believable in-universe device (they are the actors and meet all the real life crew, creator, actors, etc.) but it also comes across as a dialog with fans. Through this subversion, it explores with comedy the multiple mistakes and sillier aspects of the series till that point, and even literally kills it’s creator as a metaphor for him having left the series on a creative level, but more then that the supposed “death” of the show’s dignity by continuing beyond its intended 5 seasons. That to me is exceptional and thus worthy of exception.

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  62. [Note: Random posted this comment on April 16, 2015.]

    imagine the same scene with Willow in Bikini and Xander, Oz and Giles reacting the same way as Buffy, Willow and Cordelia.

    I can totally imagine that happening with VampWillow. I’m pretty sure Xander actually did have many of those same thoughts. Devon definitely did. Oz played it cool, but you know he would appreciate the sight. Hell, I’m going to take a stand and say Buffy probably did too. She just played it close to the vest.

    And when Willow goes “Gosh, look at those,” Giles’ reaction tells me that he had, in fact, already given some thought to “those” He’s just a bit older than them, not senile and blind. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  63. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on September 17, 2015.]

    Would any of the Supernatural episodes you’ve seen meet those prestigious requirements Jer? Granted I know you weren’t a fan of a lot of Ben Edlund “gimmick” episodes as you called them but surely some of those meta episodes must count right?

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  64. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on September 17, 2015.]

    I think that “Mystery Spot”, “Changing Channels”, and Edlund’s own “Bad Day at Black Rock” do comedy very well, and without sacrificing character or giving themselves completely over to gimmickry in the process. The comedy is still borne out of the fantasy elements of the plots, but those episodes don’t go stylistically overboard.

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  65. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on September 17, 2015.]

    Well at least the show managed to get into that specific pantheon of yours in some capacity. Sam’s misery in Black is probably the funniest part of all 3 of those but the other two come very close (though I wouldn’t quite put Changing Channels as high as some people though it is very clever in a lot of places and the “role-playing” is a clever allegory for their situation. However I think the pure-bred meta episodes are the ones that really win the day for me. Supernatural may very well have the best use of metafiction in anything and that even includes Community. The way it affected the show in 4 and 5 in particular was some particular clever writing and even the later seasons managed to reflect on the nature of stories in an interesting way. But of course that would be spoiling the fun.

    “Heat of the moment”

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