Buffy 4×01: The Freshman

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Joss Whedon | Director: Joss Whedon | Aired: 10/05/1999]

Here we are, the beginning of a new era in the series. This is an episode which does most things fantastically right and a couple things horrendously wrong. Unfortunately one of the wongs is a pretty significant “no-no.” What Whedon did do right here is manage to perfectly capture what it feels like during the initial days of the university experience. There are a ton of nice touches like all the people handing out annoying flyers, endless dumb rallies, that feeling of being completely overwhelmed by the size and amount of people flowing through the walkways, and the freedom from the terrible trapped feeling experienced in high school. Even though Buffy knows she’s got friends on campus somewhere, it really doesn’t matter because she’s still absolutely lost and alone in the mob of students. Aside from the commentary on college life, the dialog was the snappiest it has been since Whedon’s own “Doppelgangland” [3×16] . This episode is downright hilarious a large portion of the time.

I’ll begin this time with my few, but major, complaints. The first is the pop culture professor that makes Buffy stand up, yells at her, and throws her out of the classroom. I’ve been going to college and university for over four years now and that has never happened. I’ve had a professor throw students out of a class for not showing up at the first couple lectures, but at least she didn’t viciously throw them out. Also, instructors rarely care if you’re whispering quietly to a classmate. This scene ended up feeling like a manipulative way to get us to feel sympathy for Buffy and that’s not very fair to the viewer.

My other major complaint lies with Buffy’s fight with Sunday, the leader of the campus vampire gang. Buffy gets her ### kicked and there’s no explanation for it. Whedon seemed to be pulling the “my real life is affecting me” card, but in this case it’s not founded. Her first days at college aren’t that traumatic and just back in “The Prom” [3×20] she says to Giles, “kicking ### is comfort food.” She should have disposed of the group of vamps quickly and should have felt better about her real life issues because of it. When moping at the Bronze, Xander asks her, “Ok Buff, what’s the ‘what’ here?” She responds, “It’s just, what if I can’t cut it? … Slaying, everything.” I can completely understand why Buffy has doubts about making it in university, but making it in slaying? Earlier in this episode she says that it was a slay-heavy summer! She’s fought the Master, Spike, Angelus, a rouge Slayer, and a giant snake. Where in the world is this doubt about slaying coming from? In this respect I feel that Buffy regresses back to where she was in S1, and that’s ultimately the largest problem with this episode; this is where nearly all of the points get knocked off.

There are some nice touches scattered throughout the negative though. I love what they’re doing with Giles! He’s got no job and is trying to reestablish some resemblence of a life again. When Buffy walks in on Giles in a bathrobe with his girlfriend, Olivia, we feel Buffy’s shock. When first watching their interaction it seems as though Giles comes off as harsh, but we then later see what he was trying to do. He wants her to start growing up and being able to take charge without him being there to help her. This is a really good idea but he should have found a much subtler way to do this, which he later realises when coming to Buffy’s aid too late at the end.

Giles isn’t the only one that is giving Buffy the message that it’s time to move on. When she returns to a familiar environment, her home, she finds that her mom has filled her room with packing crates. Joyce has also already accepted that Buffy’s not the same little girl anymore. This continues to fuel Buffy’s loneliness. All of this stuff is genuinely significant to watch as I myself have felt exactly like this during certain transition periods.

This is why when Xander chats with her at the Bronze, our reaction is equivalent to Buffy’s: utter joy. Xander imparts a piece of wisdom from his own experiences. It seems to me that he’s not only drawing on all of his experiences with Buffy over the last few years, but also his failed road trip and even his experience in “The Zeppo” [3×13] . At one point in that episode Xander says, “Oh, man, I’m outta my league! Buffy’ll know what to do.” That’s genuinely what he thinks though. So when he warmingly tells Buffy, “when it’s dark and I’m all alone and I’m scared or freaked out or whatever, I always think, ‘What would Buffy do?’ You’re my hero,” he actually means it. Then, in typical Whedon style, he undercuts the touching moment with an awesome joke: “Ok, sometimes when it’s dark and I’m all alone I think, ‘What is Buffy wearing?'” This entire exchange reminds me, once again, why I love this series so much. Also, Xander’s insightful speeches will become a staple of his over the new few years. In “Potential” [7×12] Dawn tells Xander “Maybe that’s your power … Seeing. Knowing.” Many critics of S7 discount Xander’s speech to Dawn and the attention brought to him “seeing and knowing” as out of character. Well, I think they’re wrong; look at this episode, among others, for proof.

To wrap this up I’ll say that the succulent-for-the-ear dialog and the few good Xander and Giles moments of insight all combine to save this episode from mediocrity, but just barely. The regression of the Buffy character really hurts what could have been a knock-out episode, and that’s truly a shame. I really do love the material aside those couple big negatives.


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Willow helping Buffy choose classes to take while the vamp they were waiting for decides he shouldn’t even bother trying to fight the Slayer.
+ Willow and Buffy trading the silly flyers.
+ Buffy’s reaction to Kathy’s Celine Dion poster!
+ Sunday and her group are fun villains for a light season opener.
+ Angel’s phone call that Buffy doesn’t know about.
+ Buffy thinking she sees Angel at the Bronze.

–Β Military in the middle of a school campus? Out in the open? With guns!? Come on! Already I don’t buy it.


Foreshadowing

* Professor Walsh says, “Those of you who don’t will come to know me by the name my TAs use, and think I don’t know about, ‘The Evil ##### Monster of Death.'” That’s an amusing bit of foresight.


[Score]

80/100

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90 thoughts on “Buffy 4×01: The Freshman”

  1. [Note: buffyfan posted this comment on February 9, 2006.]

    I disagree with one of the points you made in your Freshman episode review. You say that it’s very unbelievable that Buffy got her butt kicked and started to doubt her slayer abilities. As you mentioned in an earlier review, which I think everyone can agree on, being a slayer is a part of who Buffy is. It’s not a separate entity. So it’s only natural when Buffy starts to doubt herself, she starts to doubt her slayer abilities as well, because that’s part and parcel of the Buffy package. It’s also not the only time that Buffy gets her butt kicked by one regular vampire. It happens in Season 5’s Fool for Love as well. As Spike says, all it takes for a Slayer to die is for one vampire (or demon) to have a good day. I think this is the first time Buffy starts to realize this. No matter how many times she saves the world or defeats the big bad, one regular vampire can still beat her. That’s why I don’t see this problem as a big stretch. They may have oversold it a bit, but I don’t think it’s a really big problem.

    Anyways, I’ve been enjoying reading your Buffy reviews and I largely agree with the points you make. Keep it up! I hope to see some Angel reviews too.

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  2. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on February 9, 2006.]

    You made an interesting correlation to “Fool For Love.” In “Fool For Love,” though, Buffy is winning the fight with ease and then gets caught in the middle of obvious cockiness, unprepared for the vampire to make a smart move on her which results in her being stabbed. But that was just one move in the middle of a fight in which she made a mistake. I can understand that completely. But letting a lame no-name vamp (we’d never heard of Sunday before) have complete control over the fight and beat the crap out of her just isn’t in character. Yeah, it would have been more in character in S1, but not now. Not after all she’s been through. Yes, the human half does affect the Slayer half, but she shouldn’t have been that off for just that one fight.

    As evidence of her not having an “off day” there is the fact that right before her fight with Sunday, she dusts Eddie (“Of Human Bondage” guy) with precision and ease. This proves that she wasn’t just having an “off day.” When Angel leaves her in “The Prom” she is distraught yet instead of becoming weak she takes charge and tells Giles, “kicking ass is comfort food.” She still hurts, but killing the hell hounds helped her deal with it.

    Another thing that bothered me about Buffy was in the Bronze and her wondering if she can make it as a Slayer. I fully understand the worry that she can’t cut it in university, but she’s been slaying for four years now and has gotten extremely good at it. It’s just, after defeating the Master, Spike, Angelus, Faith, and the Mayor I simply do not see any reason why she should be suddenly completely outmatched by a lame vamp and doubting her Slayer abilities. Especially not with the way they built up her character through S3.

    To sum it up, my major problems with this ep are:
    1. Buffy putting up absolutely NO fight against Sunday after just dusting Eddie with ease.
    2. Her “I don’t know if I can make it as a Slayer” bit to Xander in the Bronze.

    I really liked the episode overall, but these two things bother me to no end.

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  3. [Note: Grounded posted this comment on February 9, 2006.]

    I agree with mike on this one.

    I’m not a fan of the hero becoming less than they were purely to serve the story without a really good reason. Hence my distate for a large part of Spiderman 2.

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  4. [Note: 20questionsgenius posted this comment on February 9, 2006.]

    I was actually thinking that even though i usually agree with Mikejer on most of his points, that i didnt really agree with what you had to say about “The Freshman” either. I mean i can totally see the points you make about how it doesnt seem to suit Buffy, after all that she’s been through in the past few years, and especially her last year in high school, but I could kind of understand where Buffy was coming from. I mean, as a lot of you know college can be overwhelming. You may start it with the mentality that its going to be all fun, and new people and interesting things to learn and it is those things, but you also have much more to deal with, not just with school work but also with emotional growth and wondering if youre ready to make it in the “adult” world. I kind of felt that way when i started college. I mean i am a well adjusted person, dont usually get down on myself often, but college really kicked my ass for a while. And i think that all it takes is for a little seed of doubt to be planted to make you feel like youre the same insecure 15 year old kid you thought you grew out of being. Thats kind of how i felt, and that insecurity about being able to cut it in college and do all the things that were required and expected of me, trickled down into other areas of my life, making me less sure about them as well. So i tend to think that maybe thats what was going on with Buffy too, the insecurity about college, colored her view about her ability to do other things as well, including being the slayer. But i will say i was glad to see the confident Buffy come back after a few episodes, i hated seeing her so down in the dumps and unsure of herself in the beginning of S4, but like i said, i think it happens to us all.

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  5. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on February 9, 2006.]

    I definately see your point 20, but the message didn’t come across well at all in “The Freshman.” Nothing was subtle about it and Buffy was far too affected by her college insecurities. I really didn’t like how she dusts Eddie with ease, then immediately gets beat up by Sunday like she just instantly lost all her skill, then very quickly regains all her confidence and kills Sunday with ease. It’s too much black and white: I’ve got no confidence and I have full confidence. Things happened way too abruptly and didn’t make sense to me. Yes, she should have been affected by her personal issues and had a tougher fight with Sunday, but not by that much. She got beat up more by Sunday than the vamp in the morgue at the end of “The Body!” That’s not right. There’s a big difference between “I’m feeling lonely and down a bit from a new environment” and “my mother just died.”

    Believe me, I’ve been getting my ass kicked by college for a few years now and only not caring much about grades has helped (as long as I pass of course). The college side of “The Freshman” was handled perfectly imo and represented exactly the way I felt on my first days. In my first year I thought the Computer Science Major was going to be too difficult (mostly because of the math and science requirements) and that I’d be better suited in English! Only a lot of work during a crossroads quarter and pumping up from friends helped me decide to stick with it, and now I’m only a quarter away from graduation.

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  6. [Note: Fallen posted this comment on February 9, 2006.]

    I don’t think it was that black and white though. In S7 Buffy tells the potentials “If your instincts are telling you to run, then run.” Her slaying instincts were perfectly intact. She dusted Eddie with ease because she didn’t hesitate and Eddie was counting on that hesitation. That’s why he just jumps out and doesn’t do anything, he’s not expecting her to be a slayer and he’s not expecting her to attack straight away.

    When she fights Sunday, Sunday knows that she’s the slayer, has a whole group of friends there to help her out, and is obviously a very powerful vampire due to having a whole group of vampires that she insults/treats like crap the whole episode and yet they still follow her. If she was just a normal vampire, her posse would never have put up with that (see:Real Me).

    So you’ve got a very strong vampire with a whole group of friends that’s taking on a slayer that is totally off her game. The symbolism of that scene is that Sunday is surrounded with support and Buffy feels totally alone. Which is one of the major points of the episode, that her friends are what makes her mighty.

    And then like I mentioned earlier, when she sees just how outnumbered she is her slayer instincts kick in and she takes off. She’s still the slayer, but her self-doubt is what makes her easy prey for those vampires.

    And I think a 70 is a very low score for one of the best episodes of the entire season. Of course your grading system doesn’t consider it to be that bad, but in my high school a 70% is a D+ and in college it’s a straight F.

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  7. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on February 9, 2006.]

    Where is 70% considered an F? At my university a 70% is considered a C-, 69% is a D+. Although, if you get less than a 70% is might as well be an F because it doesnt count towards your major and you have to retake it. That’s the default scale anyway.

    My grading scale isn’t based off any schools or anything, it’s purely the way I think grades should be. The episode is definately a ‘B-‘ to me though. If an episode gets 50% right then I consider it really mediocre episode, but still not absolutely terrible. Don’t think of my scores as school scores where a 79% is considered terrible. In my system 79% is pretty decent (just take the % without the school associations, that might help).

    You made a really good point about the role reversal of Buffy feeling alone and detached from her friends with Sunday is comfortable with her group right there with her. But none of Sunday’s minions helped at all in the fight as Buffy’s friends usually do. It was simply Buffy vs Sunday and Buffy got beat up far too easily. If something more traumatic than just feeling lonely at school had happened I’d have understood it more, but as it stands, it just doesnt work for me.

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  8. [Note: 20questionsgenius posted this comment on February 9, 2006.]

    I completely agree with you on this one Fallen. I was going to use the same line that you did from S7 when Buffy tells the potentials that if their instinct tells them to run, they should run. I thought about that when i was watching “The Freshman” the other night because her instincts told her to run so she did.

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  9. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on February 9, 2006.]

    BTW, just because her posse happened to follow her doesn’t automatically make her a strong vamp. Look at her followers. Yes, Sunday is a badass compared to Harmony, but that doesn’t make her a badass (i.e. S2 Spike).

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  10. [Note: Fallen posted this comment on February 9, 2006.]

    BTW, just because her posse happened to follow her doesn’t automatically make her a strong vamp. Look at her followers. Yes, Sunday is a badass compared to Harmony, but that doesn’t make her a badass (i.e. S2 Spike).

    No but that’s the symbolism I was talking about. Joss does like his subtext.

    Buffy feels all alone, and because she feels that way she is weak. Sunday has her gang of people and with her friends she is strong.

    Once Buffy regains her circle of friends (Xander helping her, going to get the gang, Giles on the way) she suddenly is able to overcome anything. It has less to do with her mindstate and more to do with the metaphor of the episode. This theme from the first episode of the season really ties in well with Primeval and it gives a very solid theme to the entire season.

    We see it here in Freshmen in the subtext and then again in Primeval in technicolor.

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  11. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on February 9, 2006.]

    She gets far too weak is my problem. It should have been handled subtler than it was. Symbolism and subtext falls flat on its head when you don’t buy what you’re seeing. Change like this needs to be more gradual and not so immediate imo or it’s not realistic and I can’t relate to it as much. Also, Buffy wasn’t that lonely either! At least Whedon didn’t sell it very well to me. The feeling you get at university is uncomfortable but it doesn’t make you quite that depressed. Overwhelmed and a bit lost, yeah, but not it’s not like I couldn’t do the routine stuff I normally did before anymore.

    I’m really just trying to convey to you guys that I feel Whedon went way overboard with the weakness — it was too drastic and “in your face” the way she lost her entire ability to fight, and just against Sunday. Whedon is usually much more subtle about these things. Yes, he was trying to make a point, but when it’s that poorly done it simply doesn’t work. Slaying is familiar territory for Buffy and if anything that should make her feel better about herself. That’s really the way I see it anyway.

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  12. [Note: fryrish posted this comment on February 10, 2006.]

    I like this episode quite a bit more than you, but I really disagree with the comment that Buffy was regresses back to season 1. I want to rewatch the episode before I comment further though.

    I have to say I really liked Sunday. She seemed to be a precursor to Glory.

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  13. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on February 10, 2006.]

    I don’t mind Sunday’s character and her group — they’re pretty amusing. She’s got a ‘lame’ personality but that’s intentional and isn’t a complaint.

    Ok, why don’t we look at “Helpless” as another example. In that ep we see Buffy get herself into a fight with two vampires when she,
    1. Has no powers!
    2. Was just betrayed by Giles.

    I’d wager she’s probably feeling pretty alone at this point, yet she is able to knock down one vampire and cleverly kill the other. She puts up more of a fight, imo, in this episode, without any powers, than she does against Sunday in “The Freshman.” She just gets beat up way, way too easily. I’m having trouble understanding why nobody sees that this isn’t right based on the development of her character after “Becoming Pt. 2.” In “Anne” her self-condifence change was subtle. Through Lily she was able to slowly find herself again which culminated to the point of a guard asking her “who are you?” She responds with a slowly growing perky smile: “I’m Buffy. The vampire Slayer, and you are?” It really worked and it just didn’t in “The Freshman” — there was no subtlety whatsoever. I didn’t dislike the episode. There’s a lot of really great stuff in it, but this one issue bothers me a lot.

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  14. [Note: Fallen posted this comment on February 10, 2006.]

    But again, in Helpless she knows what she’s up against and doesn’t win the fight by fighting…she wins by being smart and running away and then tricking him. In TF she walks right into this large group of vampires with one super strong leader and fights her head on. And she loses that fight (not as badly as you’re making it out to be either)..

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  15. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on February 10, 2006.]

    She only gets about 2 good hits on Sunday and gets beat up all over the place. I can understand her not putting up more of a fight at the end battle, after she’s already beat up quite a bit, but the initial battle with Sunday doesn’t do it for me. Also, in “Helpless” Buffy didn’t know about the second vampire. She only knew about the main guy.

    Anyway, once again, my only complaint is that Buffy didn’t put up any kind of fight against Sunday. It was pathetic for someone as good at Slaying as she is. I really like your point, Fallen, about the symbolism of her thinking she’s alone to Sunday having a big group of friends fighting with her (even though they didn’t actually fight). It helps me appreciate the scene more, but I still don’t buy that she’d completely lose her skill because of it.

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  16. [Note: demonslayer posted this comment on February 13, 2006.]

    It’s me, buffyfan. I [commented] under a different name. Anyway, I can see your point, but I can also see Joss’s point. I guess it just doesn’t really bother me, but it seems to bother you a lot. Anyway, I really enjoy that episode because I felt exactly the same way at university.

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  17. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on February 13, 2006.]

    Glad to see you back!

    I really do agree with you about how perfectly the feeling of just going to university is. That’s the part of the episode Whedon nailed. All the discussion here has made it seem like I don’t enjoy the episode, but I really do overall.

    Like

  18. [Note: Grounded posted this comment on February 13, 2006.]

    Going to uni was disorienting for me too but it didn’t affect my vampire-slaying ability in the slightest. Go figure. πŸ˜‰

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  19. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on February 14, 2006.]

    Well, after skimming through this entire thread again, I’ve decided that I was harsh, score-wise, with “The Freshman.” I still believe Buffy shouldn’t have been beat up so badly, but in reality I think I made a bigger deal out of it than I should of.

    So, based on the discussion had here, I’m going to bump up the score another 5 points — to 80 (B). I loved this discussion and hope we have more like it in the future about other episodes. πŸ™‚

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  20. [Note: Barbara posted this comment on March 27, 2007.]

    I like this episode. It shows Buffy’s insecurity about starting a new period of her life. I’ve never been to college, but I remember when I had to move and start a new school; I felt like crying all the time. I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t have a clue where anything was.
    I do agree though, that Buffy did seem out of character when she could easily stake Sunday and her dumb sidekicks. I kinda liked the surfer dude though, he was sort of funny.

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  21. [Note: LibMax posted this comment on July 26, 2007.]

    I agree with MikeJer about Sunday’s fights with Buffy. It’s another instance of sacrificing what we know about the character (in this case something *really* fundamental) just to make the plot work.

    Yes, Sunday has minions, but they don’t do anything. She kicks Buffy’s ass all by herself, and is well on her way to repeating the feat when she makes the mistake of breaking the parasol (we’ve seen it over again, never piss off the Slayer). Was she “off her game” because she was feeling insecure about college? How insecure was she feeling when Spike attacked her in Harsh Light of Day? And he had the freakin’ Gem of Amara, and she still kicked his ass. Anyone wanna bet on who would win a fight between Spike and Sunday?

    How much was Buffy hurting emotionally when she fought Angelus near the end of Innocence? When she fought Olaf in Triangle? I could find plenty of other examples, but you get the point. In Helpless Buffy had been drugged to take away her Slayer powers. Was some of that potion mixed into her coffee just before she ran into Sunday the first time? Otherwise, it just doesn’t make sense. We have never seen insecurity or angst or any other emotional baggage weigh Buffy down in a fight before this episode or since.

    I know they wanted a metaphor for how Buffy felt overwhelmed by the change from high school to college, but they needed to pick another metaphor. The one thing we know about Buffy is that she can kill vampires like Sunday in her sleep.

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  22. [Note: robgnow posted this comment on August 7, 2007.]

    I have to say that I don’t have a problem with Sunday winning the first fight. We’ve seen Buffy have problems fighting before when she’s upset. And Giles has said more than once that Buffy is very much an emotional fighter (in so many words). She’s not a strategist. I also think it ties nicely into S7 when she tries to make Dawn understand that it doesn’t matter if she has the stake… the vampire has the power. She learns that here… among other places. Getting overconfident in her Slaying abilities makes her vulnerable.

    Rob

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  23. [Note: LibMax posted this comment on August 8, 2007.]

    Robgnow, when have we seen Buffy have problems fighting when she’s upset? The “emotional fighter” thing only ever seems to work to her advantage – pissing her off is like handing Popeye a can of spinach. The only other time we ever saw her have real trouble with a nothing-special vampire (Fool For Love), she was having a so much fun that she wasn’t paying attention to what she was doing.

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  24. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on November 3, 2007.]

    This is a good episode for a season opener, a season of change for the Scoobies. My only problem with this episode is how they overdo Buffy´s sadness. It´s like: “do you feel sorry for her? If not, we´ll have a teacher throw her out, still not sorry for her? Well, she´s gonna be beat up by Sunday”. They put out various situations so that we can feel she´s depressed and sad and away from her friends. It´s too much.
    But besides that, I really liked how they depicted college and the feeling of being lost. I remember my first year at college and it was a mess. I was away from home, from my parents. I had my cousins and my brother there supporting but still I felt really isolated and depressed. I, even was thinking of dropping school and I wasn´t even eating. It was a very chaotic moment in my life but as time went by I got used to college and the support from all my family really helped. I think that they depicted that really well and since we all know Buffy too well, we know she gets depressed really quickly and doesn´t confide on her friends. I think her not confiding in her friends has to do as well with the Slayer part of her, the part where she is all alone and she is being hard on herself. I also loved the humour, really funny and witty.

    Wow, this is very long. mike, if you wanna delete this, go ahead. You see, I identitfy with Buffy because like her, if I make a mistake, I get depressed and I´m pretty hard on myself too.

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  25. [Note: ThisYearsGirl posted this comment on February 29, 2008.]

    I only recently found this site and I have to say- the reviews and ongoing debates in the comments are extremely thought-provoking and interesting! The intelligent exchange on this site is one of the reasons I’m such a huge Buffy fan πŸ™‚

    That said, as a young female who experienced the relative terror of the first day away at college, I have a soft spot for The Freshman. One thing I always found funny: Riley remembers Willow with greater clarity than Buffy when they bump into each other later. I mean, how does he forget a name like that? Another blow to her confidence I suppose πŸ™‚

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  26. [Note: Kyarorin posted this comment on March 28, 2008.]

    After watching the series once, the one line in this episode that always gets to me, when she’s in the bookstore talking about the prices of the textbooks, is this:

    Buffy: Can’t wait till Mom gets the bill for these books. I hope it’s a funny aneurysm.

    I’m currently on The Body in my re-run, and I just realized that that’s exactly what Joyce died from. Chilling, in retrospect.

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  27. [Note: Troy posted this comment on June 1, 2008.]

    Personally, I think it’s completely believable that Buffy regresses. She seems depressed and overwhelmed by the first few days of college. I’ve had bouts of depression in my own life, where I felt lower than low and doubted such basic things as my professional competence (even though I’m a software developer at one of the world’s best companies and am very good at what I do). Depression can do funny things to you. And in the case of a Slayer, who has to rely on split-second reactions, lack of confidence can easily manifest as slower movements, lethargic fighting, and lack of will to win. And Sunday is stronger than your average vamp–she’s the ringleader, after all.

    Speaking of Sunday, I think she’s a highly entertaining villain, and alluring in her punk attire!

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  28. [Note: Jaden posted this comment on June 8, 2008.]

    “i can’t wait till mom gets the bill for these. i hope its a funny aneurism” says buffy.

    errr forshadowing!!!

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  29. [Note: Jaden posted this comment on June 19, 2008.]

    oops kayorin already noticed that. well it is a pretty noticeable point miike and your like the king of subtext.

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  30. [Note: Tony posted this comment on June 23, 2008.]

    I don’t understand the love for this episode. I agree with everything Mike said, except for the “amazing dialogue” in this episode. I found Buffy’s dialogue to be annoying this season, and Willow was to overly excited about everything and just seemed a lot more different than Season 3 Willow.
    I also really don’t like how Buffy completly got her ass kicked by Sunday, it didn’t make sense. I think a 80 for the episode is a bit high as when I rewatched it last week, I thought it was boring. Definitely the worst season premier in my opinion.
    I don’t think Season 4 gets good until episode 3 either. Though I laughed a lot in the second episode, I just thought the whole Kathy being a demon thing was the easy way out of getting rid of her.

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  31. [Note: Steph posted this comment on July 7, 2008.]

    I don’t know if anyone else mentioned or noticed this, but when Willow accidentally knocks those Psych books on Riley’s head and starts a conversation, Riley says something like, “Professor Walsh is excellent at operant conditioning.” And then runs off with Will to find a book about it. I just thought that it was good foreshadowing for what the Professor was doing with all those demons and vamps down in the initiative… and furthormore, with Adam.

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  32. [Note: Michael posted this comment on August 3, 2008.]

    I think it was the wrong decision to raise your grade for this episode πŸ˜‰ I’d give it a 70/100 and no more. Sunday is a great one-episode villain with more charisma than most. But Buffy becoming so weak and degraded is sacrificing believability for the purposes of pushing the plot forward. It’s lazy writing at it’s worst. It just comes across as corny to me how things get worse and worse for her – it’s incredibly forced rather than feeling a part of the story. The episode has a really nice flow to it though (loved the long takes) and Willow blossoming in academia contrasted with Buffy being a total outcast is interesting.

    Like

  33. [Note: Sam posted this comment on November 13, 2008.]

    One of my favorite eps. You missed another brilliant piece of foreshadowing that Whedon threw in, and I admit, I didn’t even catch it the first time. I just did, though:

    Buffy: “I can’t wait ’til my mom sees the bills for these books. I hope it’s a FUNNY aneurysm.”

    A year and a half later, Joyce died of an aneurysm!

    Like

  34. [Note: Sanjuro posted this comment on December 12, 2008.]

    I hate this episode so much. Not only was that scene where Buffy gets chewed out for being in the pop culture class COMPLETELY UNREALISTIC, but she gets beaten up by weak-ass vamps just to prove a ham-fisted metaphor that people who were confident in high school might be undone by the extra workload. They could (and would) show that with the actual classes, but she has no fucking clue what college is going to be like the first day.

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  35. [Note: Sam posted this comment on April 19, 2009.]

    @Sanjuro: You’ve been lucky with professors. I’ve known some incredibly arrogant, @$$hole college professors, who would rip students apart for chewing gum in class and basically act like the entire world belonged to them and how dare anyone question their opinions. Some college professors will scream at their students totally without warning. Thank goodness you’ve never been exposed to that.

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  36. [Note: Elianne23 posted this comment on May 1, 2009.]

    Just wanted to say that apparently Joss witnessed an incident similar to the one
    when the Prof threw Buffy out of the Pop Culture class and worked it into the episode. There are many great profs around, but some can be incredible jerks.
    I don’t think Sunday is necessarily stronger than Buffy, but she psychs her out
    and is really good at picking up on Buffy’s insecurities and lack of confidence
    at university. She plays on these, throwing Buffy off her game.

    Like

  37. [Note: Elianne23 posted this comment on May 1, 2009.]

    By the way, love the reviews. It’s just like old times to be able to
    watch an episode and read what others think about it, even after watching
    the whole series for about the 4th or 5th time (and some episodes a lot more
    than that!).

    Like

  38. [Note: Shannon posted this comment on June 1, 2009.]

    I dislike this episode for the same reason listed by others – Buffy getting rocked by Sunday annoys me to no end. I understand the sentiment, but the execution is very poor. However, in looking at all the reviews, I think it’s pretty consistent with how I feel about other episodes that score in the 80 range. About half of them I really like despite their flaws, and the other half I can’t stand.

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  39. [Note: Holmes posted this comment on June 7, 2009.]

    Having finished watching BtVS and AtS from start to finish this week I’d like to say these reviews have been enormously entertaining and I have finally decided to air my thoughts on what are without question, some of the finest contributions to television ever made.

    As my first post, I don’t want to draw any fire so I thought I’d simply point out the foreshadowing in the bookshop scene, Buffy says to Willow that the cost of the books will probably give Joyce an aneurysm. Given that it is well known Joss told Kristine Sutherland well before S5 that she’d die, it seems quite portentous. (I mean he could’ve written ‘heart attack’…)

    Thanks again for the reviews Mikejer

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  40. [Note: Holmes posted this comment on June 7, 2009.]

    Aaaaaannnndddddd, I’ve just read that that point was made nearly a year ago to the day…

    Nice one, me…

    Trust me, my next points will be more insightful…I hope…

    Like

  41. [Note: Selene posted this comment on July 8, 2009.]

    Am I the only one who sees that while Buffy is so like a fish out of water in this episode, Willow is in her element? I’ve always felt that one of the reasons Willow and Buffy drifted apart so much in s4 is because in college brains (Willow’s domain) are going to win out over beauty (Buffy’s domain) Her SAT score notwithstanding, Buffy has never been much of a student and so she’s floundering while Willow fits right in like a hand in a glove. And Buffy doesn’t like being second best to anyone, even her best friend.

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  42. [Note: Lucy posted this comment on August 14, 2009.]

    Did anyone else hear that Sunday was originally going to be a slayer who had been turned into a vampire? I can’t remember where I heard it, but watching this episode always makes me feel a bit sad because I think that would have been kind of awesome. Maybe it would have been a bit too similar to the Faith arc from season 3, though.

    Also, did anyone notice in the bookshop when Buffy says “I hope it’s a funny aneur..

    KIDDING!

    Like

  43. [Note: Kate posted this comment on September 15, 2009.]

    Someone has probably already said this, but do you think buffys room is 214 coz Joss Whedons fave Buffy episode is innocence, 2.14?

    Like

  44. [Note: Eraymor posted this comment on January 3, 2010.]

    Rewatched this episode recently. While I’m forgiving of the whole Buffy gets beat up by a vampire because she’s doubting herself (even if they did overdo it), I don’t get why she was all bruised up the next day. She still has her Slayer healing powers, even if she is doubting her abilities, so there’s no reason she would’ve retained those bruises the next day if even Spike can’t properly bruise her (think season 6 when she’s very emotionally vulnerable and intentionally letting him hurt her). That almost bothers me more than her tripping down the hill when she was running away (which also irritates me to no end).

    Though I almost wish they’d done an episode revolving around a Slayer-turned-vampire (from Lucy’s comment). It would’ve made more sense in season 5, as they were exploring Slayerism more, but definitely very cool.

    Also, if this posted twice, I apologize. My computer doesn’t like me.

    Like

  45. [Note: Smallprint84 posted this comment on March 17, 2010.]

    Hey did you notice when Xander says to Buffy: And now you’re Betty Louise?

    In “Superstar” Spike calls Buffy ‘Betty’. So funny.

    Plus Buffy is so pretty in this season.

    Like

  46. [Note: Guido posted this comment on March 27, 2010.]

    Several times during this episode I thought, “who the hell directed this?” I felt like whoever it was didn’t know Buffy very well, and should have gone back and watched Graduation Day, Parts 1&2, as I had just before. When I checked the credits I could hardly believe that he would have run Buffy through such a simplistic and overstated series of challenges just to break her down.

    Not one of Joss Whedon’s better episodes. Was he distracted by Angel the series?

    Like

  47. [Note: SasukeMan posted this comment on June 7, 2010.]

    Hi all,

    This is my first time commenting on the site, and I just wanted to say I love these reviews and fine the comments interesting. I just rediscovered my interest in Buffy and have only worked a few eps past this one so far. During my original fandom, I only caught the first three seasons, so this is all pretty new to me (thank the lord for Netflix!).

    I actually chose to comment on this ep because it is one of my favorites, for one reason only: Xander! Xander is one of my favorite characters, not only for his witty banter, but also for willingness to help in any way possible, in spite of his lack of superpowers, etc. His is a particularly poignant struggle: the struggle to overcome powerlessness and make even a small difference.

    Anyways, I HATED his representation in season 3, yet at the time same time, I think his own pain gets glossed over in so many discussions of these episodes. I always find his season 3 representation to be an inverse of Buffy’s situation. Think about it. In “Hopeless,” for example, Buffy struggles to face her fears and battle something so much stronger than her with nothing but wit and guile. Yet, she almost withers away under the sense of weakness. After years of wanting to a normal girl, she can’t deal with a few days without her powers. Yet Xander deals with this weakness everyday. He always faces horrible forces and is usually met with insults for his weakness – he’s a liability, yet he fights on. While Buffy is commended for her bravery in “Helpless,” Xander’s actions in “The Zeppo” are left unstated.

    Another way in which he is a great foil is his failure in life. How many times during seasons 1 and 2 does Buffy struggle to deal with a seemingly hopeless future. She is worried about slaying, life, success in school, etc. Yet, at the same time and with little attention, Xander also faces constant signs of his doomed future. At any given point, Cordelia tells him he will be nothing, will just spend his days delivering pizzas. And it happens! Buffy’s worries are always put into perspective through Xander. The way he was used by Faith and almost killed by her harms his reputations and leaves him feeling weak and useless, yet her (in my opinion) lighter personal offenses against Buffy (since everyone knows Buff is innocent) are the focus of the show.

    Boy, that was rambly. Onto this episode. I love it because it is one of the few occasions where Buffy realizes how special and strong Xander is; for once, he really gets to stand out. She is drowning in self-pity – socially marginalized, frustrated, lonely – and then she sees Xander, throwing her arms around him. When was the last time she even gave him a hug? Season 2? It really seemed to me that their friendship was (understandably, as Xander was quite the jerk) considerably weakened in season 3. Yet here, she showers him with affection, not to reciprocate his own love for her, but out of her own desire for company. Xander complies. Then she hears of his summer: all he wanted, in return for accepting his meek future of nothingness, was to see the country. Of course it fails. His experiences are so depressing, yet he recounts them all with humor and love. Some people on this site complain that Xander (etc.) puts Buffy on a pedestal. I don’t think so. I think this speech his less about his belief in her perfection than his belief in her strength and sense of purpose. She only sees the potential in herself through his belief. I love the seen. How can she remain self-indulgent in her sadness when he can go through so much pain, dislocation and sense of worthlessness and still remain positive – and still believe in her.

    I only hope this is a continuing trend in his personality, and not a one-off case of character growth. Sorry for the rambling comment. I just really like this episode.

    Like

  48. [Note: Shiny posted this comment on June 9, 2010.]

    @ SasukeMan — I loved your comment, it really explored a different theme than the focus, which always makes me happy πŸ˜› I agree with you about Xander in this episode; he absolutely shines, showing the amazing support and simple belief he has for Buffy. I also agree that he has been (and will again be) a total jerk at times, which never made me dislike him. People can be arseholes, but that’s not all they are. Like a lot of other viewers, I was slightly flummoxed by his role as ‘the heart’ of the group, given the infamous Kick-His-Ass lie, jealous behaviour and the like, but it quickly made sense to me. He’s always been the most human, both in terms of power, and in his decisions. He messes up a lot, never made it to college, works minimum-wage jobs without complaint, and he’s verbally attacked Buffy (both interventions spring to mind) before. All his failings are incredibly real, but when his friends go off the deep end, he’s there.

    That said, I do think he puts Buffy on a pedestal. Not all the time (see above, re: interventions) and not unreasonably, but I think he needs someone to look up to, and she fills that role for him. I think he uses her as his moral compass at this stage — she’s the one who knows what’s Good and Right, and he takes his cues from that. He’s always been a good person, don’t get me wrong, but he has screwed up a whole bunch, and I think Buffy represents the person with morals and strength that he lacked in his family. A part of him needs that example, that role-model he can actually relate to (as opposed to Spiderman) and hang out with. It makes sense to me, at least insofar as Buffy’s failure to always meet those expectations results in him being much more angry and disappointed than he would be with Willow et al. He puts a lot of faith in Buffy, both as a caring person and an evil-battling hero. The Freshman shows the positives of having that kind of faith in a loved one, and BtVS doesn’t leave out the negatives of it in other episodes.

    As for the main theme, I didn’t like it. The concept was great, but it just wasn’t handled well enough. When you compare her emotional state here to Becoming Pt 2, it just doesn’t make sense that she’s so utterly disabled because of… changed circumstances? The isolation of this ep utterly pales against the backdrop of total seclusion forced on her in Becoming. And apparently Slayer healing is affected by emotional state, which is new and soon-to-be-forgotten. Sunday was a great villain, and I liked the simple vampire story set up for the season opener, but they dropped the ball with Buffy’s weakness. It simply seemed overwrought and unbelievable.

    I’d have no problem with Professor McBastard if it weren’t for Buffy’s reaction: telling nobody. Not because it’s un-Buffy, as it’s well-documented how she likes to keep painful things secret, but because it’s a horrible example. If nobody tells the board what McBastard is like, he’ll keep treating his adult students like dirt (in the UK, 18 = adulthood, and I’d have screamed bloody murder if a lecturer had treated me that way). Going to Uni is allegedly a new frontier of individual freedom, and some lecturer treats her worse than any of her high school teachers did (even, arguably, Snyder). The whole thing just strikes me as contrived and overdone.

    Still can’t believe Joss did this episode…

    Like

  49. [Note: SasukeMan posted this comment on June 10, 2010.]

    Hi Shiny,

    Thanks for the response and for the insights. I especially appreciate your point about Xander placing Buffy on a pedestal. Placed in the context of his family – which, I hope, is fleshed out later in the series – it makes a lot more sense as to why he looks up to her in such a way. It also helps explain his – often dumbfounding – attacks on her during this interventions. Still, having just finished season 4, I feel that Buffy does more to put herself on a pedestal – with the frequent moralizing speeches and judgments of other characters – than Xander does at this point. But, it is completely open to debate.

    As for the whole episode, I see your point (also stated by others) about her seeming collapse when fighting Sunday. It did not bother me much in the long run though, since these kinds of single episode snafus are relatively common in the series.

    Finally, regarding the professor, I completely agree that he was worse than anyone at the high school. I mean, at least Snyder was amusing, and at least we had some understanding of why he was being such a jerk all the time. The professor in this episode is completely classless and – as a graduate student – I am personally offended by his inappropriate outburst. He was the real “big bad” of the season…

    Like

  50. [Note: Afterthebattle posted this comment on August 4, 2010.]

    Anyone ever noticed how the scene in “Touched” resembles the “you’re my hero” scene from this episode? Xander kneels down in front of Buffy and tells her: “Buffy, I’ve gone through some fairly dark times in my life, faced some scary things, blah blah silly stuff … you’re my hero”.

    Spike kneels down in front of Buffy and says: “I’ve been alive a bit longer than you, and dead a lot longer than that. I’ve seen things you couldn’t imagine, and done things I prefer you didn’t … You’re a hell of a woman. You’re the one, Buffy.”

    And then, the typical Whedon jokes: “what is Buffy wearing?”/”I don’t wanna be this good-looking and athletic.”

    And in both cases they manage to cheer Buffy up and give her strength.

    Like

  51. [Note: Niko posted this comment on August 19, 2010.]

    Under foreshadowing, what about when Buffy says “My mom’s going to have an aneurysm when she gets the bill for my books”. I mean she did eventually die from an aneurysm right? Has to count for something lol

    Like

  52. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on August 29, 2010.]

    Afterthebattle: You are right. It is very similar.

    The Good:

    The realism and scope of the college campus adding to the overwhelmed feeling.

    Willow excited about the huge ceiling library.

    Riley: “So are you girls taking ‘Intro Psych’ or do you just want me dead?”

    The fantastic greeting/pep talk to Buffy at the Bronze. So great.

    Buffy finds her rhythm and gets the job done.

    The Bad:

    Why did Buffy think there was a struggle. There would be no evidence on grass.

    Using the carpark cemetery set for both of Buffys contacts with Sunday.

    Trivia: As soon as Buffy is at a new school a could-be friend is vamped. This happened to Jesse in ‘The Harvest’. Also, Eddie responds “I’m not” when he is shown sympathy over being turned, just like Jesse did. de’ja’vu.

    Like

  53. [Note: John Roberts posted this comment on October 19, 2010.]

    Did my review of The Freshman in the next episode. I just wanted to say … what a beautiful dorm room! If that’s what California dorms look like, then damn I made a mistake by leaving the state for college.

    Like

  54. [Note: Mash posted this comment on August 7, 2011.]

    Funny lines:

    The early exchange between Willow & Buffy was ridiculous:

    Buffy: I got jello shots

    Willow: I didnt get jello shots – wanna trade for Take Back the Night?

    [For those who dont know – Take Back the Night is a nation wide college campus event dealing with sexual harassment and rape]

    And immediately followed by Willow’s overtly sexual line about knowledge in college.

    Willow: I didnt want to tell Giles, but Occult books aside, our library didnt have the greatest selection.

    My “aw” moments:

    Eddie [as a human] – what a sweetheart 😦

    And hahaha on the bondage-porn-mr pointy line.

    Angel’s phone call 😦

    Xander

    Foreshaodwing the next episode with Buffy’s roommate – Giles: The evil is this way? Buffy: My room is.

    Like

  55. [Note: R Martin posted this comment on October 13, 2011.]

    I liked the episode when i first saw it. I mean Buffy was just going through a phase for a few hours and snapped out of it. She felt lonely without Angel and vulnerable in a feminine sense. The Sunday villian was brilliant and having such a brilliant charcter be killed is a little lame but she was just as well written as Spike was. The writing Buffy’s new friend Eddie was spot on as well as she gains comfort in someone experiencing what she feels. The overall tone is Buffy is feeling a little homesick but will soon learn how to cope even if by episodes end she still is’nt fully theyr’e. Riley’s on the horizon and he grounds her again but it’ll take a fling with a total asshole before she gets they’re. A good opening episode i remember watching it and felt that they’re could be a good show without the high school motif which also helps keep it fresh. They just never had teh gang hang out in a familiar setting which helped to tarnish the identity of the show a little. They also lost Angel and Cordelia nessecitating theyre replacemnt with Anya and Spike witch diluted the show and sucked the blood out of it.

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  56. [Note: nitramneek posted this comment on December 11, 2011.]

    I knew that Kathy was going to be the roommate from hell when she put up that Celine Dion poster! Buffy, run for your life, right now before it’s to late!

    Like

  57. [Note: x factor posted this comment on December 31, 2011.]

    Afterthebattle- i noticed! But Spike’s speech is a poor imitation of Xander’s in this epi. Spike’s sounded forced and cheesy – Xander’s stumbling yet heartfelt speech sounded a lot more natural and realistic and just plain better!

    Sunday was just fantastic and this epi ended up to be one of the top 3 in this very forgettable season.

    Like

  58. [Note: Odon posted this comment on February 14, 2012.]

    Another bit of foreshadowing, this time for Spike’s chip with Professor Walsh’s specialty being “operant conditioning” (e.g. behaviour modification)

    Like

  59. [Note: Dave posted this comment on May 12, 2012.]

    Yelling professor would have been a target for my fists. Not less than twice in University did I end up knocking out a professor for being unnecessarily rude to new students. Hilariously, I wasn’t thrown out as I was considered to be “justified.”

    That scene really annoys me, makes me wish she’d just jacked him in the jaw. I can tell how it’s clearly trying to force empathy, but I don’t feel that, just self-irritation from experience, and knowing I would never stand for being spoken to like that.

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  60. [Note: Floydpinkster posted this comment on June 23, 2012.]

    First off let me thank you for getting back to me on my comment from a couple of epsiodes ago. Then let me apologise if I gave you the impression that i didn’t like your reviews or even that review itself. I just thought it was inconsistent with what i had come to believe was your views about the show. These things are very individual in taste when it comes to rating and reviewing. I have never found your reviews to be amaturish any anyway. Infact i find them insightful, entertaining and educational.

    Anyway. a thought on this episode. Perhaps it was spoke of earlier. I found Buffy depressed in this episode. Collage can be overwhelming and wrot with Anxiety but i feel that it is usually mixed with excitment. I thought i saw and felt buffy having a little of the star Quarterback in highscholl syndrome. You can become a pretty big star in high school and it can be a tramatic experience to start all over, be pushed to the back of the line again. All that recognition that buffy was feeling (finally) at the end of season 3 is definetly gone now. And i believe she speaks to this at the bronze to Zander. Anyway I thought It may have been more of this going on.

    Still can’t explain the ass whoopin’

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  61. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on June 23, 2012.]

    No worries, floydpinkster. I didn’t get that impression from your comment at all. πŸ™‚

    Re “Freshman:” I think Buffy was mostly just overwhelmed. When I first went to university there was no excitement for me, only nervousness, unfamiliarity, and that same feeling of being a little overwhelmed and scared by it all. From an emotional standpoint, that really connected with me.

    FYI: I doubt you’ve read my original Season 1 episode reviews. I rewrote them all around a year or so ago. The original reviews of that season, in particular, where what I felt were amateurish.

    Like

  62. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on August 14, 2012.]

    I enjoyed this episode and Buffy’s struggle with identity its something everyone experiences and the writing and SMGs acting allows the audience to resonate with Buffy’s pain easy.

    The main reason i appreciate this episode is the contrast you can make with Welcome to the Hellmouth. Buffy in season one doesn’t necessary experience the not fitting in and lost feeling as Xander said she was big news, everyone wanted to know about her, ‘Not a lot happens in a one Starbucks town like Sunnydale’

    Whereas in this episode, Willow is blossoming in the academic field whereas Buffy although smart relied on her friends to succeed in that world, Oz is Oz and thanks to the band and his own smarts fit alongside his girlfriend.

    Everyone is dealing with finding there way to treat Buffy like in Welcome to the Hellmouth. I flashback to her speech to Jonathan in Earshot. This was a great way of opening this season’s primary meaning; Identity.

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  63. [Note: nitramneek posted this comment on August 19, 2012.]

    This is just a random observation. Buffy: “It’s just… there was this vampire, and she took me down, and I just… I don’t know how to stop her”. XANDER: “Then where’s the gang? Avengers assemble! Let’s get it going!” Who would’ve thought, who would’ve dared to dream the impossible? Joss and his Avengers,go figure.

    Like

  64. [Note: Summer posted this comment on December 23, 2012.]

    Haha, I thought the same thing about the Avengers comment. So cool.I really like your comment about Xander, SasukeMan. You know, two years alter, it’s never too late to appreciate a really insightful comment about my favorite character that everyone loves to hate! Has anyone ever been that happy to see Xander ever? It was a heartwarming moment and I loved his speech. And it’s a good message, as men aren’t generally conditioned to look at women as heroes.I also loved how Riley remembered Buffy as “Willow’s friend”. When does that happen? Since when does Willow get all the attention? I thought the episode did well highlighting the differences between high school and college. I liked the professor part. I feel like it could happen and for me it was a nice downward spiral, really shaking Buffy’s confidence and her core and at her core is her slaying abilities.Another thing is the episode highlights that the gang doesn’t really have a place to gather anymore at random. That’s sad! Also, Sunday was really fun. I’m wondering if there’s any insight to Buffy’s arm being half-broken for like a whole day? I guess the emotions-tie-with-slayer-healing thing? It was kind of odd. Maybe because being without her support group is like losing a limb! haha.Marc Blucas is hot.

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  65. [Note: Arachnea posted this comment on February 27, 2013.]

    A good opening season and I agree with MikeJer about Buffy being so sloppy in a fight with a no-name vampire.

    I liked the part where she’s overwhelmed by entering college (could someone explain to me what difference there is between college and university ?) though I couldn’t completely relate: in my country we don’t have dorms, we must find our own room or appartement and pay for it and there aren’t so many groups or activities ! But I remember when I first set foot in my university, I was overwhelmed by the size of it, was easily lost in the corridors and the new format of teaching (vs what you call high-school) with an auditorium full of so many persons was scary.

    What I thoroughly enjoyed was the scene between Xander and Buffy. And I can’t help but agree with Sakuke. Xander’s story puts Buffy’s underground. She got in college, he got stuck working in a dark club in nowhere land. His parents make him live and pay for accomodation in the basement, her mother has put some crates in her room for two weeks. (Not to mention that on Christmas he sleeps outside because of his drunk parents whereas Buffy’s mom invites a lonely friend to come home and celebrate). That doesn’t mean Buffy’s feelings aren’t true and overwhelming, but seeing Xander cope with so much more help put things in perspective for her.

    And I like how Willow is excited being exactly where she fits. She loves knowledge, libraries and Oz. By the way, I wondered if Oz chose Sunnydale because of Willow. He’s shown to be a big brain too and I believe he must have had the same choices of college than Willow.

    Like

  66. [Note: Chris posted this comment on December 8, 2013.]

    Guys I am rewatching buffy now and just watched this fight, came on the net to see what people thought.

    Here is my 5 pennies worth.

    She dusts the first vamp with ease, that vamp has just turned into a vamp so as such he is inexperienced.

    Comes across sunday and is initially confident, but what you all failed to pick up on is right before sunday hits buffy she remarks about buffy’s outfit been lame for university, since buffy is really insecure this brings her mental mind away from the comfort of slaying back to real life, right at that moment sunday takes advantage and gets a preemptive start which buffy never recovers from.

    In addition buffy was not an all out slayer machine at this point of the show, prior to this episode she has struggled in many fights, in particular she had to be saved by faith from mr trick near the end of season 3, plus she didnt really kill that snake demon, she was just bait leading it to a bomb. We also seen many previous episodes of the show buffy’s fighting ability is affected by her mind, in season 2 she had failed fights against angelus and couldnt beat him until the point she was willing to see him as an enemy and as such kill him. she has likely not been having any training or guidance from giles either for a while given that we see giles chilling out. Then to mention buffy is used to having others helping her and looking up to her, whether its angel, willow, xander, spike. This is touched upon by the master in season 1 as well as spike multiple times throughout the series. In this episode she is alone with no prep.

    Finally sunday I expect was better than an average vampire, all the other vampires in that gang feared her and followed her, she likely in the past (unseen to the viewers) proved superior fighting abilities to these vampires and also may well be the oldest vampire there.

    When understanding all this the outcome of the fight is believable except for one thing, why sunday let buffy escape, that wasnt believable. The problem is tho these type of shows cant have buffy been beaten and been killed, I dont think I remember a show I have watched where the main character dies and is replaced with someone else.

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  67. [Note: T.G. posted this comment on February 6, 2014.]

    I don’t agree… not saying I don’t see where your coming from,i do. But buffy, when insulted by vampires, she goes all out with her slaying. You remember when angelus started throwing jabs at buffy in “innocence” she ended up winning the fight. she might have gotten hit the first few times, but she got the last hit. If anything Sunday’s comment should have motivated her.

    In a way, I see where your coming from though. Shouldn’t buffy’s life affect her work sometimes? sure yea, that’s only realistic. But in my opinion it would be more plausible to make it affect her slaying in a GOOD way.

    The only thing about this review that I disagree with is the complaint about the guy throwing buffy out of his classroom. Although that RARELY happens, it does happen sometimes. My brother’s friend is a professor, and she sometimes throws people out like that. although he was a bit over-the-top throwing her out, It still does not bother me.

    Like

  68. [Note: Alex C. posted this comment on February 23, 2014.]

    I am a little disappointed that the quotes section doesn’t include one of my favorite Buffy snarks from any episode:

    Xander: Buffy, this is all about fear. It’s understandable, but you can’t let it control you. “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to anger.” No wait, hold on. “Fear leads to hate. Hate leads to the dark side.” Hold on, no, umm, “First you get the women, then you get the money, then you…” okay, can we forget that?
    Buffy: Thanks for the Dadaist pep talk. I feel much more abstract now.

    Exhibit A. in my argument that Buffy is slightly more intellectual than her friends sometimes give her credit for. Always gets a chuckle out of me, too.

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  69. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on June 9, 2014.]

    I think while this wasn’t an overwhelming Season opener, it was certainly one that was layered and exhibited different aspects that give us a fresh feel. If there’s one thing I love about this show is that no season feels like the last. Every season feels different somehow, whether its in a big way or a small way, you get this changed pace from the new season that you didn’t see in the previous one. I also like that Buffy, despite being the Slayer, is faced with such real problems such as fitting at at college. I do agree to a few points made above that they went overboard trying to drive home the point that Buffy was feeling sad. I would’ve felt bad for her whether or not they would’ve added all those contrived bits like the way the professor was yelling at her and her getting beat up with such ease. However since people have already tackled these issues in earlier comments i’m not going to bother.

    I like how Willow’s the popular one here and Buffy’s the one having trouble adjusting. This is definitely foreign waters for her, when she wasn’t the Slayer, she was the Queen Bee back in High School. And even when she was the Slayer, I think she still had a grasp at her popularity in the school. She felt superior to those silly guys and insecure girls back in High School, but college is a whole new deal. In an interesting mirroring scene where the two girls talk to Riley, I noticed that Buffy was the one fumbling for the right words, stuttering and messing up; while Willow was able to talk to him with complete ease. This is just an opposite of how Buffy and Willow reacted back in “Welcome to the Hellmouth”. That’s all done pretty well. Riley’s already likable (although this doesn’t last), Sunday’s alright and she’s totally the embodiment of a less fabulous, less God-like Glory. My favorite parts were Buffy sounding totally adorable, tilting her head at Giles and petulantly mumbling, “No! Because you’re very very old, and it’s gross.” Haha! I also totally enjoyed when Giles comes bounding to the rescue when the deed’s already been done. I’m not surprised that Oz is instantly popular either, if I had to describe the word ‘cool’ to someone, and I’d point them in Oz’s direction.

    Xander was great here, we really see how much he has come to mature. Its true, he faces the same problems that Buffy does, and moreso since he isn’t even able to make it to college and ends up living in his parent’s basement. Ugh, the poor guy. I can totally buy over here that despite Xander’s numerous flaws, he has a big heart and it makes sense that he is the ‘heart’ of the group, he has no superpowers, but he’s the super-glue that holds them together and keeps them for falling apart. I love that he’s able to inspire Buffy, a little pep-talk from a loving friend is all Buffy needs to kick some major ass! This is proven several times in the series (mostly evident in the episode ‘Touched’ from S7).

    So all in all, it has quite a few flaws that everyone above me already dissected in detail, but its still a great Buffy episode with more witty humor, hilarious innuendos, great character interaction and some doses of (too much, here?) emotion. I think a B is fit.

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  70. [Note: Jade posted this comment on June 16, 2014.]

    I never understood something: How on earth did Sunday and her gang get into the dorm rooms to steal students’ stuff? In “The Initiative” Willow has to say come in for Spike to come in, and in “The Yoko Factor” Buffy saying “I guess” wasn’t enough for Angel. But here the vamps can apparently just come in and out as they please. Is there a reason for this I’m missing?

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  71. [Note: Annie posted this comment on June 22, 2014.]

    I think Buffy’s “push” was when she saw Sunday trash her award from “The Prom” and that triggered her to kick ass in full energy. From the start of the episode, we see Buffy feeling lonely, Giles told her that she needs to take care of herself and Buffy’s mom treated her room like a storage room. She just needed someone like a friend (Xander) to believe in her. The moment when Sunday trashed the award set Buffy angry because that award represented the appreciation from the entire high school class.

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  72. [Note: Luvtennis posted this comment on July 20, 2014.]

    Couple of points:

    First, Buffy is coming off a high point in her life. She graduated fron high school. And she was no longer just anonymous freak. People loved and respected her … from a safe distance. Now she is back to square one. She has got to fond the inner slayer all over again. And she does with a great deal of incredibly snappy dialogue along the way.

    Also, Eddie is played by the same actor -Pedro Pascal Balmacedo – who played Oberyn Martell. What talent factory BtVS and Angel were.

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  73. [Note: Rob W posted this comment on September 18, 2014.]

    Jade, that’s a good point about Sunday’s gang getting into dorm rooms without an invitation.

    I suspect it was just an oversight on Joss’s part, but if you need an in-story reason for it, perhaps there could be a delay involved when a person first moves into a new space. Maybe the vamp barrier magic doesn’t take effect immediately, but only when a person starts to feel “at home” there. If so, the robbery gig Sunday’s got going would need to take place mostly at the beginning of each school year.

    I’m trying to think if this would hold up across the other Buffyverse episodes. I can’t immediately think of a situation where it wouldn’t.

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  74. [Note: Zach posted this comment on October 21, 2014.]

    I somewhat agree with your point about the professor, although, in fairness, I’m sure it DOES happen, not to say that most professors are like that, but I have heard much worse horror stories, so while I think it’s over the top, I don’t find it completely unrealistic…just unlikely.

    However I really disagree with your points about her being insecure about her slaying…Emotions aren’t really logical…It’s almost like “You ace every single test you take…Why are you suddenly nervous about this one?” It’s a constant struggle for Buffy I think, and no matter how many vamps she takes, there’s no doubt that she has some insecurities about her skills, just as we all do…This is a completely natural emotional stage, and generally is more dominant with women than men, although it happens to all of us, including myself.

    As far as her losing to Sunday, I also have zero issue with this…I don’t see it as an off-day, but rather an off-fight, as spike poetically illustrates in Fool for love, it really doesn’t take much to get an upper hand in a fight, just one fuck-up (excuse my language) is all you need to get the upper hand, and this is actually true to reality, when I was younger I used to box pretty frequently and got pretty involved in it, if you let the opponent get the upper hand early, it really sways the remainder of the fight. I have no issue with this fight because of this…Not to mention her emotional self doubting, etc. As far as Sunday being a tough opponent, I think she was meant to be pretty formidable, I don’t think a Vampire has to be “famous” to be powerful. All that being said, the rest of your review is spot on xD.

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  75. [Note: tin can posted this comment on January 25, 2015.]

    I feel that this episode works a lot better if you think of it as being from Buffy’s point of view rather than a literal documentary record of what happened (in the story). To me, that makes – in particular – the lecturer’s yelling at her much easier to accept: it wasn’t necessarily what he said or how he said it, but how she heard it and how it made her feel. The same applies to the rest of the episode.

    I like this episode overall. It places the group in a new situation, which was necessary, and explores the change in dynamic generally convincingly. There are a couple of cheesy bits, and one or two bits of dialogue that I don’t really believe (Willow’s “knowledge spurting” for one), but although it’s difficult to move away from what went before, this episode lays the ground for the show to continue evolving in the way it had to and helps it believably expand beyond the high school.

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  76. [Note: Vincent posted this comment on April 12, 2015.]

    Am I the only one thinking that Cordelia’s departure, even if she was “sent” to “Angel”, was… well, not a departure ? I mean, she was an important character in the three first seasons, but she juste disappears and she’s (nearly) never mentionned after the end of season 3. That’s lame. You can’t construct and character and toss it like this, even if the caracter goes to a spinoff.

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  77. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on April 12, 2015.]

    I think TNG had a similar problem with Chief O’Brien and his family since they went over to DS9 (although Picard does say goodbye to him in the pilot for that show). I guess that situation was less problematic since Starfleet is a military organization with lots of transfers and O’Brien wasn’t one of the main characters. I guessing the Scoobies already dealt with Cordelia’s departure offscreen and she isn’t the kind of person you would necessarily talk about while there gone it is still kind of a boon for the audience, especially since one of the last times she’s talked about on Buffy is being compared to Glory which is pretty unfortunate given her development on Angel and her eventual end on that show.

    I can’t really criticize the writers too badly for how they handled the situation but it’s understandable if you’re peeved

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  78. [Note: DoctorWhoGirl posted this comment on April 22, 2015.]

    I swear that I’ve read somewhere that in the first draft for this script Sunday was supposed to be a former Slayer who’d been turned, which was the justification for her increased strength; Vampire powers with Slayer powers on top. Somewhere along the line that aspect was dropped, but the fact that she was string enough to kick Buffy’s ass was left in the script.

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  79. [Note: Darnell posted this comment on June 24, 2015.]

    As a HUGE fan of your writing, I feel like you’re over analyzing the Buffy/Sunday bout way too much. I first saw this episode in 2004 during the 9th grade(from the season 4 DVD) and was able to pick up on Whedon’s subtle approach INSTANTLY because I related to it. Even though Buffy has defeated some much tougher foes in her past, you don’t seem to have a full grip on the fact that Sunday and her gang represents the anxiety that consumes someone when he or she is starting as a college freshman and even a freshman in high school. It’s also clearly pointed out when Sunday shakes her head and says ”Freshman” after Buffy takes off. That anxiety causes you to lose sight of the real reason you are in college or high school and that’s to climb your way to the top through education. Sunday and her gang were a big metaphor (in a tiny box) that represented the unknown challenges Buffy will have to face now that she will be in the real world without her friends (at times). When there are challenges, there’s the anxiety when you don’t understand what you’re about to face outside of your comfort zone. Sunday didn’t need her gang to join in because she was getting the job done all by herself – which I think was a mirror of Buffy triumphs when she’s with the Scoobies. Had Buffy gotten the upper hand with Sunday, her gang would’ve intercepted and overpowered Buffy which became her fear AFTER Sunday won fight #1. That was also the 2nd possible mirror – Buffy’s friends intercepting when the odds are against her – key phrase – ”odds are against her” – which was the theme that blinds Buffy of winning fight #1 and the metaphor of the whole scenario.

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  80. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on July 3, 2015.]

    I like your review of this episode Mike, though I must quibble with a few of your ‘major’ flaws. Before that I want to comment on the ‘Cordelia just vanishes’ post above (#82). Cordelia had been slated for Angel as soon as the spinoff was greenlit and it was getting difficult to persist with the idea that Cordy was 18 while the actress was much older. Throughout Season 3 of Buffy, she is subtly separated from the scoobies after ‘Lover’s Walk’ and although she reconciles with Xander, by S4 she is long gone and not really required to be mentioned.

    It isn’t common, but I have seen someone chewed out like that by a lecturer and thrown out. It does happen, if rarely. I think they were really hammering home that this wasn’t school and lecturers aren’t there to discipline them like children. It’s a bit over the top, but at the end of the day I have seen this happen during my time at University, also in a first-year class.

    In this episode, Buffy faces a series of bewildering experiences at her new college. As any Uni alumnus knows, this can be a daunting and stressful experience. Buffy is a person that thrives on both confidence and emotional investment, but she doesn’t feel either when she first starts Uni (unlike Willow). It’s this that means her encounter with Sunday goes so badly. Sunday is an unknown quantity to Buffy, yet just like with many new adversaries she encounters, Buffy opts to take her head-on without assessing the risks. With Buffy’s malaise, she goes onto autopilot and doesn’t realise the danger this poses. Normally she dispatches vampires with ease, but in this case she just wasn’t on her game. Let’s not forget that a similar thing happens in the next season in ‘Fool for Love’ where she finds out a little more about Slayer psychology and the apparent death wish. In both episodes she assumes that no lowly vampire could threaten her and in doing so opens herself up.

    There’s a lot of villain decay in Buffy, which is part of the storytelling – the Big Bad of the episode/season is rarely defeated in the first encounter and may well be part of whichever metaphor Whedon wanted to get across. Unfortunately when you come at Buffy from a position of pure metaphor the moralising and cautionary tales become a bit more clunky. Sunday in this episode is one of the more interesting vampires to crop up on the show (she was probably worth a couple of episodes, in terms of appearances) and was clearly not a particularly young vampire – the impression was that she was fairly old while her minions were a lot younger, mostly former UCS students by appearances. The fact that she treats them as minions (‘I’ve got to get some better lackeys’) suggests that this isn’t ‘just’ a regular vampire. We know from their research into the campus disappearances that Sunday has most likely been doing this (preying on Freshmen) for 17 years, which again suggests a vampire of greater age than most Buffy faces. Look how much trouble Buffy has had with certain vampires – Sunday isn’t in the Spike/Angelus league, but she’s clearly more powerful than your average bloodsucker and Buffy just wasn’t expecting it. Alarm bells should have rung when she was lured directly into a trap (again) and saw that she was surrounded by 4 or 5 vampires led by someone who clearly both knew what a Slayer was and wasn’t impressed at all. At least Buffy briefly learns that she is good enough – the Xander pep talk shows her that some people do look up to her. Her second fight with Sunday wasn’t a walk in the park either – better than the first and she gets good licks in that she didn’t land in the first fight. It’s only the arrival of Willow, Xander and Oz that provides enough of a distraction to get the fight finished. In general I’d say Sunday was a worthy villain, perhaps finished off a little too quickly (she’d have been a great recurring villain this season).

    I really like the ‘stoner’ vampire and his observation: ‘Sooo…are we gonna fight, or is there just gonna be a monster sarcasm rally?’

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  81. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on July 3, 2015.]

    I get what you mean about looking at the show as pure metaphor since Angel can’t really be seen as post-sex mad man since the cause of it was outside of his control or knowledge, Dawn as an adopted person is flawed since you usually have a choice in the matter which Buffy did not (except for post-Body where it’s more like a Lilo and Stitch situation), and Buffy’s situation of depression is kinda problematic since if you know their is a good afterlife out there and you were apparently not supposed to be brought back any way the risk of suicide or the need to get into shape seems less impactful somehow.

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  82. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on August 3, 2015.]

    That aneurysm line might possibly be the most cruel thing Joss has ever written especially for someone like me who knew Joyce’s death in the first run-through (accidentally spoiled myself around season 2 :(). It feels kinda insensitive actually.

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  83. [Note: Sirena posted this comment on September 20, 2016.]

    Whenever I watch this episode I find myself feeling Buffy’s anxiety and uncertainty with starting this new chapter in her life. I remember attending orientation and feeling overwhelmed and ready to go home and cry. Thankfully, like Buffy, I adapted and adjusted accordingly.

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