[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Jane Espenson | Director: Regis Kimble | Aired: 09/21/1999]
Kudos to writer Jane Espenson for this little gem! Here lies a mostly stand-alone episode which does what BtVS is best at: using a supernatural device, telepathy in this case, as a method to say something profound about life. What really propels this above the rest is the fantastic writing. Buffy’s clocktower scene with Jonathan is quite powerful and very applicable. The rest of the happenings involve a whole lot of misleads and a ton of snappy humor. Aside from a couple relatively small problems I was very entertained from start to finish.
This time around I’ll begin with the one thing I didn’t like. That would be Buffy’s contuining distrust of Angel and his feelings for her. I went on about this in my review of “Enemies” [3×17] so I won’t beat it over the head here. I am pleased that Willow is at least giving her solid advice. Willow says, “just talk to him.” I’m also glad that she took Willow’s advice and cleared up that nonsense.
I really appreciated the amount of side characters used here. Not only does this work to give the viewers more choices of who could be committing the murder, but it also gives the writers an opportunity to continue developing characters like Larry and Jonathan which is always good. Jonathan is the one who’s getting a lot of attention though. He has become a really fascinating character over the first few seasons. A lot of things add up to his suicide attempt here. The biggest foreshadowing of this was in “Go Fish” [2×20] when some jocks were dunking his head in water and ridiculing him. Buffy helps him and he seems angry and embarassed about it. Jonathan says to Buffy in the clocktower “I just wanted it to stop.” If the suicide attempt hadn’t been by Jonathan this sequence wouldn’t have been nearly as meaningful. We kind of know and feel for him and his development logically leads to this. This was an incredibly smart move by the writers.
Buffy’s side of the clocktower scene was even more telling. The telepathy ability could have been used completely for laughs, but instead we get laughs and a vital discovery about teenagers in general. She tells Jonathan “My life happens to, on occasion, suck beyond the telling of it. Sometimes more than I can handle. And it’s not just mine. Every single person down there is ignoring your pain because they’re too busy with their own. The beautiful ones. The popular ones. The guys that pick on you. Everyone. If you could hear what they were feeling. The loneliness. The confusion. It looks quiet down there. It’s not. It’s deafening.” I think Buffy’s speech speaks for itself!
A smaller scene I really adored is when Buffy goes to see Angel right after getting her telepathy. Her intent is to read his mind and find out what this guy is thinking all the time. I have a feeling a lot of girls would love to be able have this ability with their boyfriends, and likely vice versa. But Buffy can’t read Angel because he’s a vampire! This forces them to just sit down and communicate to each other. Once again, words have been getting in the way of truthfully talking to each other. “Hush” [4×10] is an entire episode devoted to this idea. The lesson is to simply express you’re feelings to your partner in an honest and nice way; you’re likely to get an honest and nice response back as Angel gives here.
There’s a few things I wasn’t happy about along the way, but this is a fantastic ride. Several misleads, lots of laughs, great writing, and powerful drama. This episode rocks!
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Buffy is insanely pretty in this episode.
+ Percy still being really kind to Willow because of the “Doppelgangland” [3×16] incident.
+ The amount of fun Buffy initially has when she realizes she can read minds.
+ The in-class lecture directly relating to Buffy’s feelings about Angel.
+ The library scene where everyone encounters Buffy’s telepathy first hand. This is hilarious.
+ Cordelia saying exactly what she thinks.
+ The camera work on Buffy as she’s being swamped by voices in the cafeteria.
+ Xander actually right with his guess that the lunch lady is going to do them all in.
+ Buffy doing everything she can to stop the murder even when she’s pretty much incapacitated.
+ Seeing Willow immediately take charge when Buffy’s down.
+ Willow’s interview with Jonathan mirroring the one in “Go Fish” [2×20] .
+ Xander getting side-tracked by Jello.
+ Buffy turning down Giles’ idea of her going to the Prom with Jonathan to boost his confidence. “What am I, Saint Buffy!?”
– Could the demons in the pre-credits scene be any cornier?
* Willow says to Jonathan, “We all have fantasies that we’re powerful, more respected. Where people pay attention to us … But sometimes the fantasy isn’t enough, is it Jonathan? Sometimes we have to make it so people don’t ignore us. Make them pay attention.” This in combination with her ‘interrogation’ of him from “Go Fish” [2×20] really foreshadows the popularity spell he casts in “Superstar” [4×17] .