Buffy the Vampire Slayer
"Wild at Heart"
Buffy: Sarah Michelle Gellar
Willow: Alyson Hannigan
Oz: Seth Green
Xander: Nicholas Brendan
Giles: Anthony Stewart Head
Veruca: Paige Moss
Prof. Walsh: Lindsay Crouse
Buffy fights a college vampire who disappoints her by ignoring her many and varied puns. We pull back to see Spike, who watches and gloats until he’s TAZER’ed by the strange commando unit that sneaks around the UCSD woods.
The Slayer Gang, including, randomly, Giles, all go to the Bronze and watch Veruca, the trip-hop singer Oz is clearly infatuated with. All the men fall under her spell. (Buffy calls her “Quelle Fiona... color me bored.”)
Oz’s time of wolfishness is upon us and Willow remarks she won’t be able to keep Oz company the three nights he’ll be in his cage; she has Wicca orientation. Meanwhile, Buffy is improving in Prof. Walsh’s class, so much so that Walsh wants Buffy to lead a discussion.
Oz and Veruca sit together at lunch while Oz waits for Willow; they hit it off very well, speaking their own musician language. Willow shows up and kills the buzz, sending Oz in one direction and Veruca in another.
Oz goes in his cage at night, and breaks the decrepit lock the moment he changes. In werewolf form, Oz attacks Professor Walsh, but ends up ignoring Walsh and tussling with a gray female werewolf. When morning comes, he wakes up next to none other than Veruca.
Oz is horrified. Veruca’s an older werewolf than Oz; she even remembers the things she does when she changes. She thinks it’s absurd that Oz locks himself in a cage, and as they steal clothes from a nearby dorm, Oz insists they’re not going to se one another again. “The animal is inside you all the time,” she says, “soon you just feel sorry for everybody else. You’re free.” Oz says he won’t feel free to kill people. “You’ll change.”
At his dorm room, Oz is awkward and weird around visiting Willow (who for some reason has started sporting black lace and leather pants), and he’s especially afraid she’ll see all the love-scratches on his body. She leaves, worried.
When Buffy hears from Prof. Walsh that two giant wild dogs attacked her, Buffy goes to see Giles. Giles is bored to tears a home and is thrilled to have something to look up.
Willow goes to see Xander (friend and ex-lover) to ask if it’s normal for Oz to say no to sex. She’s concerned about this crush on Veruca. Xander says probably that she and Oz should talk about the weirdness between them, rather than just reacting to it.
Oz adds a new, improved lock to his cage and dodges Buffy’s questions when she comes around. When the evening comes he calls for Veruca, and urges her to come in the cage with him; he’s concerned that she’ll kill someone. They fall into one another’s arms, locking themselves in for the night. When morning comes, Willow finds them naked in the hay.
Willow and Oz have one of those conversations between lovers that go a thousand directions and never, ever end well. Is this payback for what she did with Xander? No. Wasn’t there another option for Oz to keep the world safe than to lock himself in a room with a girl he was clearly attracted to? Willow wanders out in a daze and almost gets hit by a truck, only to be saved by Riley the cute TA, who tells Buffy to take her home. “Whatever it is, it’s not worth hurting yourself over,” Riley says.
Buffy declares death will come to Veruca. Willow likes Buffy’s suggestion that she “put the blame where it belongs,” and she goes all-out black-magic-whack. She casts a dark spell, complete with calls to Satan and Barabbas, to curse Oz and Veruca. But she can’t follow through.
Oz and Buffy, searching for Veruca, get lured into the woods by Veruca’s scent, a clothing decoy. Veruca has lured them away so she can go to the lab, planning to kill Willow so Oz will be set free for her influence.
Oz and Buffy come running, but Buffy briefly tussles with one of the paramilitary guys.
Veruca is going to kill Willow, but Oz interrupts her. “You’re an animal,” Veruca says. “Animals kill.” “You’re right,” Oz says. They both wolf out with the coming moon, and Oz tears Veruca’s throat out with his teeth. Um. Buffy shows up in time to trank Oz before he kills anyone else.
Next morning, Willow finds out that Oz is leaving. He’s afraid of what he is - - the wolf, all the time. He can’t be around people he loves until he has it figured out. “Don’t you love me?” “In all my life, I've never loved anything else.”
Oz drives away in his van to find a place where the world is safe from him.
Sometimes something going on outside a series influences what happens onscreen, but rarely does it go over as well as here, when Seth Green’s exit from Buffy for a few months works its way into a very solid episode.
Not a lot, before now, has been done with Oz’s being a werewolf- - although he was introduced with a play on “The Call of the Wild,” so far Oz has been characterized by complete control over his animal nature. In this episode, the writers call Oz’s control into question. Further, they have Veruca suggest that Oz’s nature may be utterly at odds with his desire to live peacefully.
It’s hard to watch, though, when Oz kills Veruca. Did she deserve killing? I was slightly troubled that Buffy decided to go out to kill Veruca for Willow, and I knew that wouldn’t happen. But to suddenly have Oz tear her throat out- - and why? Ostensibly, to save Willow, but it’s a troubling act, slaughtering the mistress to appease the angered “wife.”
I love the moment when Willow feels betrayed by the language Oz and Veruca share as musicians. Oz very sweetly corrects Willow’s misunderstanding of their conversation about Amplifiers, but Willow still looks pathetic. And note: in a triangle, the one who looks pathetic loses.
If anything, the story of Oz and Willow and Veruca is one of sexual jealousy and rage, and the three conduct themselves like characters in a Greek tragedy. Sweet Willow, who has grown up convincingly since we first saw her, takes her sexual rage and dives right into full on satanic magic. (She can’t go through with her curse, admittedly.) Veruca comes to kill Willow before Oz kills her.
In the end, Willow’s pain is well portrayed. You really can feel her agony as Oz heads out. I wonder where he’ll go. We’ll probably see him kill a bear in Canada before he returns. I do wonder when Oz’s memory will start to improve. Veruca claimed to have total knowledge of her werewolf activities, so when will Oz evolve? Now?
In other news:
Giles needs a job, the poor, bored man. Isn’t there another library he could work at? Couldn't he be a freelance writer or something? And what happened to the cute British model who as wondering around in his shirt drinking margaritas? And, hello, why doesn’t he call Buffy’s mom?
A telling moment: When Buffy fails to save Willow from the car and Riley whisks Willow out of the way, Buffy apologizes to Riley. She says, “Thanks, I was too far away.” Such a super-hero thing to say. Not, “thanks for saving my friend,” but, “thanks for covering my job.”
Willow goes to Xander for advice, and Xander’s advice is wise. I just wanted to once again laud Xander, the secret hero of Buffy.
Giles: “You come on business I hope?”
Buffy: “Yes. Lucky for you, people may be in danger.”
(Giles needs a job.)