[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Jane Espenson | Director: Michael Lange | Aired: 11/23/1999]
I’m going to be relatively quick with this review because, honestly, there’s not much to really say about it. The main plot is very uninteresting and Angel’s return is completely useless, but the episode is so damn funny that I genuinely don’t care. The sheer amount of quotes I had to have below is further proof of that. Buffy is absolutely adorable, focusing completely on trying to have a successful Thanksgiving dinner while Willow gets all defendy for the Native Americans, Xander gets some mystical syphillis, Anya continues to make me laugh, Giles is highly sarcastic, and Spike joins in on the fun while being tied to a chair. I’m sorry people, but sometimes I have to sit back, put my plot concerns aside, and just enjoy the characters interacting with each other using the trademark witty dialog of this series to its full extent.
The episode begins with Buffy displaying some progress with her ‘honing’ abilities that Giles said she should have way back in “Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1×01] . I really like how this scene is completely the opposite of the cliche. Instead of a scared boy running in the woods being surprised and killed by a vampire, it’s Buffy with a smile on her face who he sees. Yet in an even more amusing twist, it turns out that for the vampire it is a cliche after all! The vampire’s scared in the woods and the Slayer comes out and kills him. I bet that’s what sires tell their ‘offspring’ to spook them when they’re young. Very clever writing. It’s also worth noting that Buffy senses Angel in the area in this scene as well as two other times in the episode. It continues to show that the connection these two have will likely never fully go away.
There’s a few important things worth noting. One is Buffy’s hilarious obsession with having a nice Thanksgiving dinner in which Giles gets stuck with all the cleanup. Buffy is so much fun to watch all episode. She’s also cute, cozy, and very adorable. Another thread to note is Willow’s protest of Thanksgiving (“it’s about one culture slaughtering another”) and her reluctance to fight Hus, the avenging spirit. I can buy that Willow would be a little against the holiday, but I think she wanders into the realm of “out of character” when she still shows reluctance to killing Hus after she finds out he’s killing Xander with diseases and has killed a teacher and a priest.
The most important issue involves Spike’s entrance to the Scooby Gang as a tied-up prisoner. I love the scenes leading up to that, though, where he’s longingly looking in at groups of other vampires feeding on people. It’s kind of weird that I feel sorry that a vampire can’t kill anyone — Spike is quite the unique character! I also enjoyed seeing him so lonely that he’d even take Harmony’s company and that she’s wisened-up a tad and even has a stake under her pillow. Like I mentioned happened in “The Initiative” [4×07] , Spike’s subconcious love for Buffy is beginning to affect his decision-making process, and he doesn’t even know it yet. Why else we he choose to go to Buffy for a place to stay? He could have just found himself a crypt to hang out in for a while and then steal some blood at the butcher shop to keep himself running.
The final fight is amusing enough and it ends with a nifty little message from Giles: “Violence does that. Instinct takes over.” Willow also learns this little lesson and is able to enjoy the turkey dinner. The entire post-fight dinner is highly amusing and homely. Spike’s tied to a chair watching all of them have a feast (I’m so happy they let him sit there) and Xander lets loose that Angel was there. That mistake (“oops”) switches to a hilarious shot from Buffy’s perspective where the whole group is staring at her. Spike has this huge and highly entertained grin on his face. That pretty much sums up how I feel about the episode.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Anya’s back! Her dialog is a breath of entertaining air. She is so impressively hilarious.
+ Willow using the buried church the Master was stuck in as an analogy. More subtle continuity! Yay!
+ Willow talks about great spells with ears. Buffy says, “that’s one fun little habbit you got there Will.”
+ Willow and Xander both thinking Angel’s evil at first.
+ Spike repeatedly asking for a brandy.
+ Spike being filled with arrows.
+ The bicycle cavalry shot.
+ Spike being entertained watching Buffy fight.
– Hus gets an entire little speech in while he has Buffy pinned to the ground. Very cliche.