[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Tracey Forbes | Director: David Solomon | Aired: 11/02/1999]
Ah yes, the episode many people consider to be the worst in BtVS. What’s my take on it? Well, it isn’t all that great, but the first half has a lot of really good material in it. The main plot isn’t terrible in theory, but in execution we have a completely different tale. I’ll just outright say that the big problem is that there is far too many extended sequences involving the cavemen running around and grunting. But, since I can’t stand beer myself I am pretty amused of the idea that excessive beer turns people into cave men/women, which honestly isn’t far from the truth anyway. This is without a doubt not even close to the worst episode of the series though.
All of the character interaction is handled perfectly. Right in the beginning Buffy is day dreaming about saving Parker from vampires at which point he apologizes to her and says he sees how wrong he was. She’s interrupted by seeing him chatting up another girl and Professor Walsh talking about the “pleasure principal.” Buffy then, very amusingly, has another dream where Parker gives her the same speech and then gives her flowers and some kind of ice cream too. I really like how the writers aren’t glossing over her sexual encounter with Parker, because it’s actually really important to address further. This is a big deal in Buffy’s life — an experience she’s learning from. She finds out from Riley that Parker “sets ’em up and knock’s ’em down.” This is the point when Buffy stops trying to make excuses for Parker and looks to herself for blame. She tells Xander “I’m a slut … idiot.” These are natural thoughts after an experience like this and it’s meaningful to see Buffy thinking about it. Xander offers a little sympathy but can’t help much.
It’s at this point when Buffy begins drowning her sorrows with beer. This is understandable even though it’s not fun seeing her do that to herself. Cave Buffy begins to now emerge and there’s a few interesting things that happen after this point. The first is more just being entertained than interested: Cave Buffy spinning around in a chair. I can’t pinpoint why I love this so much but I do. Xander walks in on her and then she starts coming onto him on a primal level. Is it just the fact that Xander’s male to why she’s all over him, or does it possibly have something to do with a buried attraction for Xander himself? Maybe I’m stretching, but I think this gives some possibility to a Buffy/Xander relationship post-S7.
It’s worth noting that even as a cavewoman Buffy still has instinct to help others in a time of crisis. Even though she can be selfish at times (aren’t we all though?), the core of her being is selfless and will always be that way — it’s who she is. This point is brought across blindingly clear when she even saves Parker from death (although she, quite hilariously, knocks him out first). After everyone is outside and safe Parker begins to actually apologize, although I honestly believe that it’s only because she just saved his life and that he really isn’t sorry at all. Thankfully, Cave Buffy can see right through it and knocks him out again. Can I just say…YAY! (Look! An un-academic outburst! What can I say, academia can suck the fun out of things sometimes ;))
Problems are beginning in the Willow/Oz relationship. Willow is noticing that Oz has become awestruck by this new band’s singer, Veruca. It’s the same girl who Oz passed by and ‘sensed’ back in “Living Conditions” [4×02] . We can see Willow trying to pry Oz away from being all mesmorized by Veruca, but her charms aren’t working. This issue is directly addressed in “Wild at Heart” [4×06] . Willow, a bit concerned about Oz, goes out for a break and sees Parker sitting down for a coffee. This is certainly my favorite scene of the episode. Parker goes on about how people should be able to engage in casual sex without expecting committment. I agree with him, but only if both partners are in 100% agreement about that. The problem is that Parker misleads people into thinking he does want a lasting relationship just to break down their barriers so they’ll have sex with him; it’s disgusting. Anyway, Willow acts like she’s buying his act and then nails him where it hurts by saying “how gullible do you think I am?” That in combination with Buffy clubbing him over head with a stick is enough to allow Buffy, and myself, to move on. Lets not forget we also get to see Riley punch him for what he did to Buffy in “The Initiative” [4×07] .
That pretty much wraps up all there is to say about this one. The cursed boys that run around grunting for large portions of the episode certainly don’t spark my interest and rub off as really stupid, but I think that’s the point. I think it could have been made without being boring to watch though. All the great character development going on with Buffy, Willow, Oz, and a little bit of Xander really help give this episode substance which prevents it from completely sucking and is why it avoids sinking into useless territory. I’d take something like this over “I Robot, You Jane” [1×08] or “Bad Eggs” [2×12] anyday.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Xander annoying Buffy with his “Rough day? You wanna talk about it?” questions being repeated over and over again.
+ Willow’s casual inclusion of Faith in a sentence to insult Veruca (“Buff, have you heard of this Veruca chick? Dresses like Faith, voice like an albatross?”). This is subtle continuity that feels completely natural — I love it!
+ Buffy just grabbing the girl’s sandwich in class. What’s the girl going to do?