“Inca Mummy Girl”
Written by Matt Kiene and Joe Reinkemeyer
Directed by Ellen Pressman
Buffy, Willow, and Xander are walking…somewhere, talking about the foreign exchange program. Oh, they’re going to a museum. Cordelia is going to be hosting a Swedish hunk. Buffy is going to be hosting a guy, and suddenly Xander is not happy with the program. A little ways off in the museum, a kid is scraping paint off a wooden mask on display, and no museum workers are tackling him to the ground. Are there no chaperones on this field trip? This kid used to bully Xander on a daily basis. Buffy is about to go over and rescue the mask, but Willow decides that rescuing masks is more a task for a Level 1 human mage with a +11 intelligence bonus and a +7 wisdom bonus than for a Level 6 warrior with a +12 strength bonus, so she approaches paint-scraping kid alone.
Buffy is slightly offended by the notion that she always uses violence. Willow talks paint-scraping kid down from the paint-scraping, and the museum guide leads all the students to the Inca Princess exhibit. The centerpiece of this exhibit is a mummy in a tomb (which is not protected by any kind of glass case or even a rope barrier), and based on the way the camera is moving, it seems like the mummy is listening to Buffy talk about her foreign exchange guest.
Paint-scraping kid comes over to the tomb once everyone else is gone, and he tries to steal the intricate plate thing the mummy’s holding, but it breaks! The mummy immediately seizes him, her eyelids opening over empty sockets. Oops. (Is this the only kind of opening these two writers know how to do? Field trip, Buffy prevented from helping by one of her friends, bully awakens an evil thing. I guess we’ll never find out, because this and “The Pack” are their only episodes.)
The next day at school, Giles isn’t letting Buffy go do something fun, and she’s retaliating by beating up the training pad (which Giles is holding) with unnecessary force. She very much wants to go to the dance, and Giles eventually decides he’d rather let her do what she wants than accumulate any more bruises.
Buffy and Xander talk about the dance. He wants her to come with him and Willow so as to make it clearly not a Xander/Willow date. Buffy asks if he’s ever had any non-platonic feelings for Willow, and Willow arrives just in time to overhear him say he has not. Ouch. Sad Willow comes over to them. Paint-scraping kid is missing. They joke that maybe the mummy killed him, and suddenly it stops being funny when they remember they live in Sunnydale.
At the museum, they find a mummy in the tomb, and then they get attacked by some kind of South American warrior guy, but he quickly leaves after seeing the mummy. Willow notices that the mummy has braces. It’s paint-scraping kid!
Buffy has to go pick up Ampata (Wait, “pick up,” as in drive? Was it not until season three that they decided Buffy can’t drive?), and she suggests that he might be able to translate the broken seal from the tomb. (Uh…why on earth would a modern kid from an unspecified South American country be able to translate 500-year-old Inca iconography? Does he have degrees in linguistics and anthropology, or is it just a hobby? I’m starting to think that, with all the hyena research fail in “The Pack” and now this kind of ridiculousness, Kiene and Reinkemeyer weren’t big on doing their homework.)
At the bus station, a fairly nondescript South American (we don't get a specific nationality...at any point in the episode) kid is waiting for Buffy to pick him up, when someone says his name. The mummy appears and gives him the Kiss of Death! He mummifies. Buffy arrives with Willow and Xander (Huh? I thought she was going alone.), and a very pretty Mexican-American actress wearing Ampata’s clothes walks up. She claims to be Ampata. Xander is instantly smitten.
They go to Buffy’s house, where Xander flirts with Ampata, Buffy gets snacks, and a sulky Willow points out that Ampata was supposed to be a boy. Ampata talks about “touring” the U.S. and being “taken” to various major cities. Oh the dramatic irony. Xander is still flirting (awkwardly), and Ampata seems to like it!
In Buffy’s room, Buffy and Ampata chat about life in Sunnydale while they get ready for bed. Ampata wants to be normal, just like Buffy! Yeah…that’s not gonna work out.
The next day, Cordelia is chatting with her rock band boyfriend, Devon. She’s not as happy as she thought she’d be with Sven, her Swedish exchange student. Devon walks over to another member of his band, a short, redheaded guitarist named Oz. (HELLO OZ! IT IS SO VERY LOVELY TO MEET YOU!) Oz doesn’t think Cordelia is his type. Oz and Devon's conversation is probably the longest conversation so far in the series between two entirely new, non-villainous characters. This is not the kind of development one-shot characters are allowed to get, so we can be fairly confident we'll see one or both of them again.
Willow and Xander are talking about what to wear at the dance. Xander is very nervous about looking cool. Buffy and Ampata arrive, and all four of them go to the library, where the Scoobies pretend to Ampata that they’re in an archaeology club. Giles shows her the seal from the tomb. (ARGH. I could understand Buffy thinking any South American would be able to translate 500-year-old South American relics, but Giles? Come on!) Ampata recommends hiding the seal. Nobody finds this weird. She does give Giles an idea of where to start with the translations, though.
Buffy has Slayer stuff to do (finding the “bodyguard” Ampata mentioned), so Xander volunteers to hang out with Ampata all day. Willow is sad. Ampata is delighted. Xander introduces Ampata to Twinkies. They’re actually kind of cute together.
In the library, Willow is still sad. She was never jealous of Buffy because she knew Buffy didn’t like Xander back, but it’s different with Ampata. She decides maybe she should try to move on. Maybe. Eventually.
Giles finds on the seal that the mummy is the killer! Outside, the same guy who attacked at the museum shows up where Xander and Ampata are chilling on the bleachers and attacks! So much for Buffy’s task to find the bodyguard. They go to the library to tell Giles, and Ampata freaks out. She wants the seal destroyed. Xander tries to console her, but she just wants everything to be normal.
Willow comes out into the hall and tells Xander he should take Ampata to the dance, as a date. Xander is very grateful. Willow is still sad, but more resigned to her role as his platonic BFF.
In the library, Buffy and Giles decide that the best way to corner the bodyguard will be to take the seal back to the museum and try to find the missing pieces. Tonight! Buffy grudgingly cancels her dance plans.
Xander tells Ampata he likes her and asks her to the dance. Ampata likes him too! Xander asks if she’s a preying mantis. Ampata goes into the bathroom to apply lipstick. The bodyguard is in there! (Who is this guy? Why is he wearing old-fashioned clothes? Is he immortal, or is he just one in a long line of dudes assigned to make sure the mummy doesn’t rise?) He tells her that she can’t keep killing people to preserve her own life; she is the Chosen One, and she must die! (Ooh, parallelism.) Ampata is not impressed with this argument. She kills him with her life-sucking kiss. Then she leaves the bathroom and tells Xander she’ll go to the dance with him.
At Buffy’s house that night, Ampata tells Buffy she doesn’t have lipstick. (What? She was just using lipstick in the bathroom ONE SCENE AGO.) She’s wearing a pretty dress that I have no idea how she acquired. Buffy starts noticing that Ampata’s luggage has a suspicious quantity of boy clothes in it. Ampata talks about how the Inca princess was chosen from all the girls in her generation to defend the people from the netherworld. Buffy identifies strongly with this story. She tries to unpack Ampata’s trunk, and we catch a glimpse of the real Ampata’s mummified corpse inside it, but Xander arrives in time to distract Buffy before she sees it.
Xander is dressed like a spaghetti Western protagonist. Joyce compliments Ampata on her dress, and Ampata and Xander leave. Joyce makes a comment about how Ampata is already fitting in. Buffy is a little sad, because she thinks Ampata is doing a better job at “normal life” than she ever could.
At the Bronze, Dingoes Ate My Baby are playing. Devon is singing, and Oz is on lead guitar. Cordelia comes in, wearing a bikini with hibiscus flowers as accessories. Willow is dressed as an Eskimo. Sven is dressed as a Viking. Cordelia’s friend (who isn’t remotely Asian) is dressed as a geisha. This whole dance theme feels just a little bit awkward. Cordelia treats Sven like a golden retriever, but her geisha friend volunteers to spend time with him.
Xander and Ampata arrive, walking past a guy dressed as a rabbi (yeah, I kind of don’t think this is okay). Willow notices how pretty Ampata is in her dress, and she feels like the puffy Eskimo coat might’ve been the wrong way to go.
Giles arrives at Buffy’s house. He tells her the mummified body of the “bodyguard” was found in the school restroom. Also, the seal doesn’t say that guy is a bodyguard like Ampata told them; it says he’s supposed to make sure the mummy doesn’t rise. So now Ampata is looking pretty suspicious. They go up to Buffy’s room and open Ampata’s trunks. They find more boy clothes in one and real Ampata’s corpse in the other.
At the Bronze, the Dingoes are playing another song. Xander and Ampata dance. Willow watches sadly. Xander and Ampata’s dance is very romantic. On the stage, Oz is entranced by something. Devon thinks he’s looking at Ampata, but he’s looking at Willow!
Buffy teases Giles about his crappy old car, which is making it difficult for them to get to the Bronze.
Xander and Ampata are still dancing, both very content. They lean in for a kiss, when Ampata’s hand starts mummifying! She runs off, and she sees a short nerd dressed as a cowboy sitting on the stairs, dateless. Easy mark! (Hi Jonathan!)
Buffy and Giles realize they need to finish reassembling the seal in order to trap Ampata again. At the Bronze, Xander is looking for Ampata. Sven is complaining to Cordelia’s geisha friend about the way Cordelia’s been treating him. Turns out he’s quite fluent in English.
Ampata is trying to seduce a kiss out of Jonathan, but Xander shows up in time to interrupt it. Ampata is very sad now. She’s been killing people to survive, and Xander’s just a nice kid who likes her. She won’t tell Xander what’s wrong. They kiss, and Xander realizes something bad is happening. Before he can try to break away, Ampata lets him go. He collapses. She apologizes.
At the museum, Giles is almost done assembling the seal. At the Bronze, Ampata can sense it! She’s on her way. Buffy finds Willow and tells her about Ampata. For a second, Willow is happy to hear that Xander is once again crushing on a monster rather than a real girl, but then she remembers that this means he’s in danger. They leave to find Xander and just barely miss Oz’s attempt to introduce himself to Willow. Argh!
Ampata arrives at the museum, smashes the seal, and tries to Kiss of Death Giles. Buffy catches up, and the two Chosen Ones start fighting. Ampata throws Buffy into the tomb with Giles and shuts the lid. Willow comes running in, and Ampata tries to Kiss of Death her. Xander gets there too, and he won’t let her hurt Willow. She doesn’t stop, so he tells her to take his life if she has to kill to survive. She hesitates, but then decides she’s still going to do it. Before she can, she completely mummifies, and Buffy escapes from the tomb in time to pull her off of Xander. She collapses into dust. Willow touches Xander gratefully/consolingly on the arm, and the four Scoobies leave.
The next day at school, Xander laments his worsening track record with women. Buffy points out that Ampata got completely screwed over by circumstance, so he shouldn’t hate her too much for what she became. (Maybe...but she did still kill three people, and tried to kill Jonathan, Giles, Willow, and Xander as well. Circumstances didn't force her to become a murderer.)
“Inca Mummy Girl” is a bit of a mess. Plot holes, research fails, and uncomfortable cultural stereotypes abound, and there’s no Angel or Jenny. Spike and Drusilla are also absent (not even mentioned), so it makes the momentum from "School Hard" fall a little flat. Not cool. As to the plot holes, why did Ampata turn to dust at the end if the seal was the only thing that could trap her? Was it because she finally accepted her destiny of death? It sure didn’t look like it, given that she was trying to kill Xander when she reverted to her beef jerky state. What evil were the Incas trying to thwart by sacrificing her in the first place, and did it wake up when she did? Is there going to be an investigation into real Ampata’s disappearance? Or the vandalized Inca Princess exhibit? Or paint-scraping kid’s disappearance? Despite its problems, the episode at least has more value than the worst episodes of season one. It’s the first one with Oz and Jonathan, Willow gets some good character development, and the parallels between Buffy and Ampata highlight the difficulties inherent in being Chosen.
Last episode, Buffy was struggling for balance between the many aspects of her life. This episode, she has to sacrifice social fun times for her calling. She may be over the worst of her PTSD about dying, but it still affects her. She came back to life, but she’s still the Slayer, so eventually she’s going to have to die to save the world again. Season one was about Buffy accepting her role as the Slayer, but just because she’s accepted it, that doesn’t mean it’s suddenly a cakewalk. This season has already started testing her resolve, and the tests are just going to keep getting harder and harder. One thread "School Hard" shares with "Inca Mummy Girl" is the importance of Buffy's support system. Spike couldn't kill her because of her family and her friends. Impata's dialogue strongly implies that she was left to face her destiny entirely alone, and Buffy's last line to Xander calls back to him bringing her back to life. Buffy may struggle to balance all the different parts of her life, but this struggle is exactly what makes her both formidable as a Slayer and centered as a person. If she had nothing but her calling, she'd either be dead or miserable. She saves the world, but her friends and family save her.
Xander is a demon magnet! I don’t really see the purpose of it, though. In “Teacher’s Pet,” he was punished for a) being a virgin and b) having a crush on a teacher, so I’m not sure he learned anything valuable from the experience, because there’s nothing wrong with being a virgin and while it would be wise to avoid crushing on teachers, Miss French was the only one in the wrong. In “Inca Mummy Girl,” Xander is very sweet to a disoriented new girl, she likes him back, and they start dating. There was nothing wrong with any of that; she just happened to be a 500-year-old mummy with life-sucking lips. Is there even supposed to be a lesson here? Bah. Anyway. He’s still exhibiting jealousy towards any guy who might be near and/or interested in Buffy, which is even more ridiculous than it was before she rejected him. His hypocrisy is played for laughs even though it would be more helpful for the other characters to actually address it. He’s pretty adorable with Ampata, which could bode well for his future love life. He can be very gentlemanly, respectful, and complimentary, and his insecurities come out as dorky humor rather than something unpleasant. Regarding his friendships with Willow and Buffy, it’s kind of bizarre how easy it is for him to be best friends with a girl who’s in love with him and another girl he’s in love with, and this never seems to create any major tension in the group. Is it just because the status quo (none of them dating each other) isn’t shifting, and none of them believes it will shift?
Willow showed she wasn’t willing to settle for being Xander’s consolation prize in “Prophecy Girl,” and now she’s taking the first step to moving on. She’s so selfless with Xander in this episode, but so sad about him not wanting her. It’s the perfect episode to introduce a future Willow love interest character, but probably the wrong time to have them actually meet. Oz makes a very good first impression for the audience, though. He’s cool, he’s eccentric, and he’s not remotely shallow. I already ship it.
Nothing new for Giles except that we get to see his little gray Citroën for the first time. They might've been trying to make a parallel between Giles and the "bodyguard" dude to go with the Buffy/Ampata parallel, but if so, I don't think it really works. The only thing Giles and the bodyguard dude have in common are that they're trying to keep Buffy and Ampata on track with their destinies. The comparison breaks down because Giles cares deeply for Buffy, but bodyguard dude is extremely hostile towards Ampata.
Cordelia might as well be season one Cordelia in this episode, but at least her boyfriend both survives and doesn’t seem completely horrible.
“It involves a feathered boa and the theme to A Summer Place. I can’t discuss it here.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.