Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Buffy the Vampire Slayer- Beer Bad

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 4
Episode: “Beer Bad”

Buffy: Sarah Michelle Gellar
Willow: Alyson Hannigan
Oz: Seth Green
Xander: Nicholas Brendan
Giles: Anthony Stewart Head

Buffy fantasizes over and over about saving Parker, the boy who used and dropped her. In these fantasies he contritely vows his love, devotion and desire for forgiveness. In the real world, Parker is chatting up yet another girl in Psych class while the Professor chats us up on the Pleasure Principle, which says that humans will keep fighting for what they desire, need it or not. (In the next fantasy, Parker brings ice cream.)

Act 1
Buffy observes that maybe its Maybelline. No, no. Buffy mopes while Xander tries out his new bartender routine- - he’s gonna be slinging drinks at the pub so he can be more than “just a townie.” Buffy, meanwhile, can’t quite grasp that Parker’s not gonna come around and love her. (She’s convinced the death of his father has given him “intimacy problems.”)

Xander has a harder time at the pub than he expected, and gets rudely insulted by a Brainy Frat Boy (We’re the future of this country, and you keep the bowl of peanuts full.) Buffy spots Parker with his latest conquest, which is confirmed by Riley, the cute and clever TA.

As Parker mugs with NextGirl, Buffy wonders to Xander about throwing him to the vampires (which I suppose she could do.) But instead she falls in with the same frat guys who insulted Xander and listens to the BS all night while she gets sauced on a microbrew called Black Frost.

Meanwhile, at the Bronze, Oz is ever so obviously going gaga for trip-hop baby Veruca, whom he’s spotted before. Willow can already see the writing on the wall.

Next day, Buffy is groggy and waxing lovingly about beer “It’s nice. Foamy. Beer.” She’s a little out of it and gets weirder, grabbing food from another student and chowing down while Willow reacts with horror.

Oh, and in the back of the pub, someone’s putting a strange potion in the Black Frost.

Act 2
Buffy and Brainy Frat Boys are drinking again and going straight downhill into monosyllabic beer-philosophy. Meanwhile, Oz wants to drag Willow to another of Veruca’s gigs - - Oz has been asked to sit in with the band (“Shy”). “Two Veruca shows in two nights?” Oz says, a little sadly, “Yeah, I guess I can see how it would be... dull for ya.”
At the pub, when Buffy reaches the point of climbing around on the Jukebox (“Sings. Good.”), Xander cuts her off and sends her home. (“Want more beer! Beer good!” “No, beer bad. Bad, bad beer. What the Hell am I saying?”)
Willow seeks out Parker to “give you a piece of my mind” about how he used Buffy. Parker’s attitude: what was he supposed to do, announce ahead of time that it was a one-night stand? Parker spells out his philosophy to Willow: “Just for one night, can’t two people create something wonderful, then go back to their lives, and not ask for more?” Willow can grasp his point, so he says he’s sorry in any event that he hurt Buffy and that Willow’s a good friend for standing up for her.

Act 3
The Brainy Frat Guys morph into Cave People, complete with big brows, and turn on Xander. (I hope Xander managed to hold onto the tip he got out of them.) Luckily Xander remembers his trusty lighter and frightens them off with “Fire - - fire angry.”
Now the frat boys go a-wilding, damaging landscape and cars before kidnapping some college girls and dragging them to the frat house.
Turns out the bartender, angry at the class snobbery of the frat boys, slipped a magic mickey into the Black Frost. It’ll wear off, he says, but for now it will bring them down a few thousand notches. Xander, though, is worried about superhumanly strong Buffy, who got a dose, too.
Xander grabs Giles and they find Buffy in her dorm room, where she’s drawn stick images of Parker on the walls. (“Parker bad,” she says, beating the image with her palm.)
Parker, meanwhile, is moving in for the kill with Willow, as he steers the conversation to exactly the words he used with Buffy, and how he’s enjoyed sitting here with Willow, here, tonight. But Willow’s no fool: “this isn’t sharing, this isn’t connecting. This is about getting sex. Men haven’t changed since the dawn of time.”
Then, cavemen run in.
Buffy escapes Giles and Xander in search of beer.
Willow gets knocked unconscious in the frat house basement, and the cavemen, rather than immediately assaulting the various women they have with them, instead grunt and dance with burning sticks, starting a bonfire. They knock Willow and Parker out.

Act 4
The fire in the frat house blocks the entrance to the basement. Buffy sniffs the fire and, pronouncing fire “bad,” she goes to the frat house. When she sees Willow unconscious, she jumps down the stairs over the fire barrier, then realizing she can’t go back, scales the wall to knock out a ground-level window. The cave guys begin escaping the fire through this exit, leaving Buffy alone with Parker, who’s coming around.
“What do we do?” Parker says, and Buffy smacks him with a big stick and drags him to safety.
Up above, once the cave guys are safely locked in a van, Parker apologizes to Buffy. She clubs him upside the head again.


Wonderful episode, for several reasons, not the least of which is Parker gets his comeuppance. The whole ep hangs around yet another Whedonism: this time, the effect of beer is amplified in the Buffy world to reduce college kids, literally, to monosyllabic vandals and rapists.

The frat boys don’t start out well. I cringed in the Good Will Hunting scene, when the Brainy Frat Guy embarrasses Xander by taunting him with his big swingin’ vocabulary. “Were you discussing the geopolitical ramifications of bioengineering?” This guy’s a jerk, and he’s full of BS. I felt for Xander in this episode. He so doesn’t deserve the treatment he gets at the hands of these guys.

But then, Xander is a cool character, because we do see him get hurt, and it always has the same effect: he gets hurt, it registers with him, and her notes it and pretty much gets over it. Note especially that, as the one powerless character in a team consisting of a Librarian Pseudo-Warlock, a Super-Hero, a Witch, and a Werewolf, Xander saves the day a lot. Would you have thought to scare the cavemen with your lighter? Be honest. I hope that by the grace of something or other Xander gets to go to college. He deserves it.

I also especially love the astuteness of Willow, which is a theme in this episode - - with Buffy, with Oz, with Parker. With Buffy, Willow reminds her to cut the crap and quit imagining Parker to be anything but a seducer. We should all have a Willow to tell us when we’re inventing a better world.

When Oz starts staring a little too long at Veruca, Willow knows the score, probably before Oz does. This is a very adult response. She’s not merely jealous, she knows how things go and can see the most likely road ahead.

But the best moment is Willow and Parker’s dance. Parker verbally circles Willow like a hyena, sniffing for weaknesses. You can see him trying to fit his best lines through a new seduction filter he’s built just for Willow, on the fly - - he has to both own up to being a jerk and seduce her anyway, and he considers it a great challenge. In a sense, what Parker does is cast spells with his voice, bringing people under his will one at a time. He chooses words and phrases that roll out like an incantation, meant to penetrate the ego of his conquests:

I haven’t found the “the one” yet
I have yet to find the girl I can just - - you know - -
Sit with
Feeling totally at ease
Spew whatever’s on my mind
Or even sit comfortably in silence.
[INSERT NAME HERE], can I tell you something private?
[Wait for response.]
I've enjoyed talking with YOU.

Parker’s lines don’t move Willow, a witch; she knows a spell when she hears one, even a perfectly everyday spell.

By the way, Parker gets knocked out no less that three times in this episode. Luckily, this is the Buffy universe, where being knocked out is no big thing. Remember when Giles used to get knocked unconscious like, every other episode?

Oh, we should discuss the hero. She really is one. It’s nice that Buffy, even as a cavegirl, seeks out evil to stop it- - hence she runs towards, not away from, fire. She may knock Parker out but she still retains her heroic impulse, and drags him to safety. She’s a hero even without her conscious mind.

Xander: Anyways, was there a lesson in all this? What did we learn about beer?
Cave Buffy: Foamy.
Xander: Good. Just as long as that’s clear.

Willow: “Just how gullible do you think I am?”

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