"Never Kill a Boy on the First Date"
Written by Rob Des Hotel and Dean Batali
Directed by David Semel
This episode opens on the particularly unpleasant face of a vampire, which Buffy is in the process of kicking. She successfully slays him, but Giles is also there, and he has some nits to pick about her technique. He claims that it was too “bloody,” which makes no sense because she kicked and punched maybe four times before using the stake, and there didn’t appear to be an opening to do so earlier than that. The choreographers and the writers clearly aren’t communicating effectively. Giles finds a signet ring among the vampire’s ashes, and evidently this means it’s time to hit the books.
Which the Master is also doing! Hello, the Master, haven’t seen you in a while. What have you been up to the last two weeks? He reads out an ominous prophecy about the coming of a vampire warrior who will help him defeat the Slayer. Then he throws one of his minions across the cavern because he’s angry that the vamp from the cold-open was stupid enough to get himself killed before he could complete the mission. This Anointed One guy is clearly a Very Big Deal to the Master, which means he will likely be a Very Big Problem for Buffy.
Buffy and Giles make some headway researching the signet ring, but enough of that Plot A stuff; here comes Plot B! In the shape of a tall, dark-clad blond boy who is obsessed with Emily Dickinson to a weirdly intense degree for a teenager. Buffy has a crush on him. He does not seem to be entirely uninterested in her, and she turns into a huge starry-eyed dork when she realizes this. Awkward teen flirting ensues, and this crush reduces Buffy to clichés like “Does this dress make me look fat?” Giles is annoyed because he feels Buffy is not appropriately prioritizing Plot A.
In the cafeteria, Buffy briefly discusses Plot A with Xander and Willow, but Owen is in the room, so it’s time for Plot B again. Cordelia also has a crush on Owen. I really don’t understand why either girl has a crush on him, but whatever. Owen likes Buffy better than Cordelia (a phenomenon Cordelia is unable to comprehend), and they arrange to meet at the Bronze. Buffy has a date!
Except that tonight is supposed to be all about Plot A. The prophecy of the Anointed One will be fulfilled at the same time as the date, so Buffy’s romantic life is going to have to wait. To Buffy’s intense irritation, no vampires show up at the cemetery that night, so it looks like Giles’s calculations were off. Before letting her scamper away to meet Owen, Giles lectures her on the importance of discretion.
Instead of cutting to the Bronze, we cut to a shuttle bus. One of the passengers is a cute little boy. Another is a super creepy dude whose dialogue is entirely composed of sinister pseudo-Biblespeak.
At the Bronze, Buffy sees Owen dancing with Cordelia. Despite his obvious discomfort at Cordelia’s closeness, Buffy takes this as a sign that she has lost the competition for his affections.
Sinister Pseudo-Biblespeak Guy is now really freaking out his fellow passengers, but they have bigger problems to deal with. A vampire runs the bus off the road, and then he and a few of his buddies attack all of the passengers.
The next day at school, Buffy thinks her life is over because she missed one date. Typical teen melodrama stuff. Xander is being supportive, and then suddenly he’s being jealous. Owen shows up hoping to try rescheduling the date with Buffy. There’s some more awkward teen flirting. Owen clarifies that he definitely doesn’t reciprocate Cordelia’s feelings, and he lends Buffy his gold pocketwatch.
Buffy goes to see Giles, but she steamrolls past any possibility of having to do Plot A things, and he’s too taken aback to protest, so it’s off to Plot B! Meanwhile, the Master is gloating over the success of Phase 1 of his plan. Phase 2 is tonight, which probably means Buffy’s date won’t go the way she hopes.
At Buffy’s house, Willow and (for some reason) Xander are helping her pick out her date outfit. Xander is being jealous and a bit creepy, trying to arrange a jewelry box mirror so that he can see Buffy while she’s changing her clothes.
Giles shows up with pressing Plot A matters. Parts of the sinister prophecy appear to have come true! Buffy is very determined to go on this date, though. Owen shows up, and Xander attempts to warn him off her (at this point, he might as well just pee on her). Buffy convinces Giles that he’s overreacting about the prophecy and she will still available if an emergency comes up. She leaves with Owen, and the other three head for the funeral home.
At the Bronze, Owen is blathering on about Emily Dickinson, but then he says something that makes Buffy feel guilty for blowing off Giles all week: he likes her because she doesn’t seem as frivolous and boy-crazy as a lot of other girls. (How he got that impression of her in this particular episode, I have no idea.)
Cordelia and her posse show up. She tries to pry Owen away from Buffy, he isn’t interested, and Buffy shoos her off.
Giles arrives at the funeral home, where there be vampires! This is not good. He wards them off with a cross and runs to barricade himself in one of the rooms inside. Willow and Xander show up outside the window of the room he’s in. He’s going to be in big trouble if Buffy doesn’t come soon.
At the Bronze, Buffy and Owen are still smiling, but there’s really no chemistry and they’re struggling to come up with conversation topics. I don’t understand why this is a date Buffy wants to continue. Enter Angel! This is the first time Cordelia has ever seen him, and she approves. But he heads straight for Buffy. She’s very happy to see him until he reveals that he’s here strictly about Plot A. At that point, she tells him she’s on a date. He doesn’t entirely conceal how unwelcome this news is to him. Xander and Willow also show up, and the combined persuasive efforts of Xander, Willow, and Angel are enough for Buffy to finally be willing to attend to Plot A. before she leaves the Bronze, she plants a kiss on Owen (with Angel in the background of the shot).
Buffy, Willow, and Xander make it to the funeral home, but Owen shows up too! This is inconvenient. Buffy goes into the room where Giles was, which has been ransacked by people with inhuman strength. One of the corpse lockers bursts open, but it’s only Giles, who is unharmed thanks to his clever hiding place. They still have to deal with the Anointed, but they also have to keep Owen both safe and ignorant of what’s really going on. Willow and Xander are tasked with distracting Owen while Buffy and Giles complete the mission. Unfortunately, Willow, Xander, and Owen are the ones who find Sinister Pseudo-Biblespeak guy first. He is now a vampire, and he feels these three high school students will make an excellent first meal.
They pull their barricade back down and flee, but they don’t get far before running into more vampires. Owen is concerned about Buffy’s safety, so he goes to help her instead of getting out. (Points for chivalry, Owen.) Sinister Bible-Speak Vamp whops him over the head, knocking him unconscious. He makes the mistake of telling Buffy he’s dead, though, so now she’s in rage mode. She throws Sinister Bible-Speak Vamp into the cremation furnace just in time for Owen to come to. They all leave, but Owen doesn’t seem too keen on a second date. (He should probably actually go to the hospital, because he is acting very concussed.)
The next day at school, Buffy is fretting over Plot A ruining her date. Owen shows up, and Willow drags Xander away so he and Buffy can speak in private. Buffy expects Owen to tell her he’s done with her, but instead he asks her out again. She’s really happy until she realizes that he’s only interested in dating her because last night’s peril has turned him into an adrenaline junkie. Her face falls rather poignantly as she realizes she has to distance herself from him in order to keep him alive.
Giles arrives, having overheard the last bit of Buffy and Owen’s conversation. He tells Buffy about his own history of becoming a Watcher. To Buffy’s surprise, this wasn’t his dream job. He has had to make sacrifices too. He understands. She appreciates this. It’s a very nice moment. He compliments her on stopping the Anointed One.
But alas, he spoke too soon. Cut to the Ominous Church/Cave Set, where the Master repeats the prophecy and then we see the little boy from the shuttle bus. He is the Anointed. Whoops.
So, Plot B has so far addressed Buffy’s social life, her relationship with her mother, and her academics. Dating was bound to come up soon. It was good to see what the Master was up to again, and this episode’s Plot A moves the season arc along. For all its cheesiness, I’m fine with the execution of Plot A, but Plot B could have been much stronger if they’d cast a better actor as Owen and given him some more believable character traits. This guy just does not seem like a teen heartthrob. He’s supposed to be this brooding, tortured poet type, but he looks like a jock and comes across as a glassy-eyed idiot. It also probably would’ve helped if Owen had been present in some small, subtle way in an earlier episode, just to establish Buffy’s crush before now, because as it is, the last time we saw Buffy, she was getting pretty swoony over Angel. Another issue with this one is the degree to which Buffy tries to escape Plot A. People died because she didn’t stop the Harvest fast enough. She should have learned how serious this stuff is, but here it looks like she didn’t, and she might have been able to prevent five deaths if she hadn't dismissed Giles’s concerns about the prophecy. (I won't really blame her for those, though, because even Giles had no idea the vampires would attack a bus.) It’s still a much stronger episode than “Teacher’s Pet,” but definitely the weakest episode that actually deals with the main arc of the season.
I would say that this is the first episode that makes Buffy look worse, but the final scene between her and Giles does make up for a lot of it. She now understands how careful she has to be mixing slaying and her romantic life. She can’t ignore slaying to date, and she has to be very cautious about how much she exposes her dates to the supernatural world.
Willow doesn’t really get any development in this one. She’s just there to be Buffy’s cheering section about Owen. This is, however, the first time we see her living vicariously through Buffy’s romantic life.
Xander is still heading downhill. His jealousy is ineffective at earning him sympathy because it’s too obvious and petulant. And trying to spy on her while she’s changing clothes? Come on, dude! She trusts you! Don’t be gross. I really want to like this character. I like Buffy and Willow, and they both like him. I want him to deserve it. So far, he doesn’t, and it’s very aggravating.
Giles starts off just repeating his role from “Welcome to the Hellmouth”: hound Buffy until she engages with Plot A. But in that final scene, we learn about his past, and it lends him a new level of credibility. He has had to sacrifice his own dreams to follow in his father and grandmother’s footsteps. He isn’t just being an uncaring taskmaster; he knows how hard this is for Buffy, but he also knows how important it is.
Cordelia is back in her role of primary Plot B antagonist, but we learn nothing new about her. It’s possible that she has the same taste in guys as Buffy, but it’s also possible that she just doesn’t want Buffy to gain status by dating Owen.
Angel’s scene in this episode is interesting. He is jealous, yes, but in a much subtler way than Xander, so it isn’t insufferable. He seems more confused and disappointed that Buffy is still fighting so hard to avoid her duty at this point. I like that he holds Buffy to such high (but reasonable) standards, and he seems to have his priorities right. Why have he and Giles not met yet? They seem like they would really get along.
“We could invite the chess club, but they drink and start fights.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.