45 min., 1997
Written by Dana Reston
Directed by Stephen Cragg
My rating: ★★★
Moving forward, slow and steady.
* * *
Episode 3 starts with Buffy trying to join the cheerleading squad, Zander wanting to get into Buffy’s pants, and Willow wanting to get into Zander’s pants. Buffy states that she is looking for something normal and safe to do outside of slaying. Understandable, as everyone wants some form of escapism; in her case, being a cheerleader is a good option, having done it before. At tryouts, a girl named Amy is introduced as Willow’s old friend. Then another girl named Amber (who looks like she is definitely in her late 20s) starts her routine and then her hands catch on fire. I didn’t know vampires could do that…interesting. We then learn that Amy is a huge fan of her mother, in a very creepy, sort of stalker way. Buffy and Amy don’t make the team and are listed as alternates, which Amy really doesn’t like.
We then see someone casting what seems to be a spell, and then Cordelia starts to go blind while in drivers’ ed. Giles then determines that it’s actually a witch—not a vampire—doing all of this.
Trying to figure out who is doing this, it leads back to Amy, who is trying to follow in her mother’s footsteps. As the episode tells us over and over again, if kids aren’t carbon copies of their parents, then they won’t be loved or taken seriously. Really??? Okay…that’s really kinda harsh to throw at the parents out there. I don’t think that every mom is a pageant mom; maybe some, but not all. I guess it all goes back to teen angst (great…just what I needed).
As it turns out, there is more going on than just Amy trying to get into cheerleading. In fact, it’s Amy’s mom that switched bodies with her and she is trying to relive her glory days. Amy’s mom used to be known as “Catherine the Great” in her day and really misses it…so she is actually the witch. Catherine (in Amy’s body) casts a spell on Buffy to make her really annoying and then slowly kill her. Giles reverses the spell, and Buffy and Catherine—back in her real body—face off. Buffy reflects a spell back at Catherine, who then disappears in pink swirls.
We find a little later that Amy is now living with her dad and they don’t know where her mother is. The camera pulls in on the Catherine the Great statue and we see its eyes moving.
This story is really good overall. It’s a different take on the “living up to expectations” angle. They handle it well and (to a certain extent) is believable to most teens that feel the same way, or even parents that do want to relive their glory days. The acting is starting to get a bit smoother and a pace is getting set for the overall tone of the characters. Definitely a step in the right direction, and I hope it keeps up.
The problems with this episode are more of the reality-based problems; simple things that I don’t know why they are added or left in. Taking them out wouldn’t destroy or take away from the story and everything would be just fine.
First example. How is it possible for a sophomore to flunk Drivers Ed twice and then be in it for a third time? Drivers Ed is a full-semester class, not a quarter class. Everyone I know first took DE in his or her sophomore year. If the show is at the beginning of the school year, then how did she already take it twice? Again, something that didn’t need to be said, but really makes them sound stupid. Yes, I know it was there for a joke, but it was not funny.
Also on the DE class, why is there no brake pedal on the teacher’s side? All the DE cars I drove in had them. As far as I know, it’s actually a law to have them in all DE cars. I know they did it to add tension to Cordelia going blind, but they could have added the teacher pushing on the pedal and it not working (just a thought).
Another thing that bothered me is the way that the witch has telekinesis. She even pulls a “Force choke” on Zander. No need to cast a spell or chant; she just has them. I thought there would be more needed to get telekinesis. Not terrible, just odd.
Then she rushes Buffy’s almost-dead body, while Giles is casting the counter-spell. Shouldn’t you be attacking the person trying to break your spell and not the almost-dead person that’s not doing anything to you? I’m just saying that choice is really lacking any logic. Don’t give me the phrase “it’s just a show,” because you are the same people who complain about horror movie victims not being logical and doing stupid things. When you stop complaining about that, I will stop complaining about it in Buffy.
My final complaint is about the amount of weird shit that happens, and by the next episode it’s just kinda erased. In the first two episodes at least four people died, including (who seemed to be) Zander’s really good friend. No funerals, no questions, no fear in the rest of the kids? Oh, one of my best friends died (by my own hands no less) and I’m just going to not think twice about it. Really? I don’t think I’d ever want to hang out with them, as they might just throw me in front of an oncoming train to save each others’ lives. If you’re not Buffy, Willow, Zander or Giles, it seems you are just cannon fodder. Now the vampires at the Bronze…okay, it was dark, or there was a trick of the light, and it was just some crazy killers. But the girl whose mouth is completely covered in a new flap of skin? That’s broad daylight (or classroom light) in front of an entire class. How do they explain that? Oh, wait, they don’t. They seem to just sweep it under the rug and forget about it. Lame!!!
Giles: “Why would someone want to harm Cordelia?”
Willow: “Maybe ’cause they met her?”
Buffy’s mom: “Great parenting form…little shaky on the dismount.”