Written by Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt
Directed by Bruce Seth Green
Things have been nice and slow since they defeated Spike and Drusilla (ha!), and the Order of Taraka dropped their contract on Buffy for some reason. Buffy’s been helping Angel recover.
Buffy, Willow, and Xander get to Buffy’s house. The door is ajar! She goes inside, stake at the ready, and she hears something break and her mom say “No!” She runs to the kitchen, where she finds…Joyce making out with John Ritter. Awkwardness ensues! Buffy is deeply not thrilled to meet Joyce’s boyfriend Ted.
Ted still hasn’t left, and now he’s made dinner for everyone, including Willow and Xander. Joyce’s relationship with him has been going on for a while. He’s a software guy, so Willow is immediately a fan. He tries to get on Buffy’s good side. He comes across as just slightly too nice, though, so I’m not surprised that his efforts fail. There’s nothing reasonable she can say against him, so she takes out her anger on a vampire. She pummels the crap out of him for a long time before staking him, which Giles finds weird. Buffy goes on a rant about vampires that is actually a rant about Ted, and Giles tries to get her to open up, but she doesn’t.
The next day, Xander and Willow are trying to get Buffy on board with Ted. They invoke Freud when she can’t properly justify her dislike of Ted. (I really wish TV writers would just get over Freud already—or at least that they’d stop acting like he’s still the leading scientific authority on the human mind. The entire field of psychology has been over him for decades. Most of his theories were garbage, so let’s all just move on.)
Buffy then says that she doesn’t just dislike Ted; she senses that there’s something weird going on. So far, there’s no evidence to back up this claim. It just seems like Buffy is reaching for a justification where none exists. Ted comes up behind Buffy to join them! He’s been upgrading the school’s software, and he invites all three kids to play mini golf with him and Joyce on Saturday. Buffy tries to get them to help her get out of it, but Xander is firmly on Team Ted.
In the computer lab, a sad Giles comes by tentatively to visit Jenny. He wants to make sure she’s okay. She’s still having trouble sleeping, and his constant attempts to make sure she’s okay are smothering her.
At Angel’s apartment, Buffy is ranting about Ted while she changes the bandages on Angel’s hand. This rant has clearly been going on for some time, because Angel would like to change the subject. Buffy realizes she’s being obsessive and kind of ruining their time together. Angel offers some wisdom about how much loneliness sucks; Joyce might just need someone. Buffy would be fine with Joyce being with someone, as long as that someone was her dad. She grudgingly resolves to playing nice with Ted, and then she and Angel kiss.
At the mini golf place, Ted is being more inquisitive than Buffy likes. He’s trying to be stern about her poor grades. Buffy does not feel that he has any right to know about her grades. He’s seriously acting like an overbearing dad now. He has some very strict ideas about following rules. When Buffy cheats at mini-golf and he catches her, he starts to get a little threatening. Then a lot threatening. Okay! Another point for Buffy’s instincts. The worst part is that everyone else is still totally Team Ted.
The next day, Buffy skips breakfast because Ted’s the one who made it. Joyce lets it slip that she loves Ted, and when Buffy tries to tell her about Ted’s threatening behavior, she doesn’t believe her at all.
Buffy wants to investigate Ted. Willow and Xander still don’t buy that he’s anything but a normal guy. Cordelia comes by and Xander compliments her. She reacts with hostility, to which he reacts with confusion. He follows her, and she’s mad that he’s not sticking to their normal routine of petty arguments. She doesn’t want anyone to find out about their snog sessions. He asks if she’d like to go to the utility closet for another one. She agrees.
Buffy manages to get Willow on board with the Ted investigation. Then she heads to his work, a software telemarketing company, where he’s the star salesman. (Hmm, there are starting to be quite a few robot-related figures of speech regarding Ted. I wonder what that’s about.) Buffy finds out from his coworker that he’s planning to marry Joyce! He even has a wedding date set! She also finds a framed photo of Joyce on his desk. It’s the picture of Buffy and Joyce from their fridge, which he has folded back so Buffy isn’t visible. This is definitely a bad relationship.
At home that evening, Ted is praying over the meal, and it’s a very passive-aggressive prayer about Buffy’s behavior. Buffy is through halfheartedly pretending to be okay with Ted. She doesn’t touch the food and she demands to know if they’re engaged. Joyce says no, but Ted says that’s the plan. Buffy is extremely not okay with this, but right now, there’s nothing she can do. He’s just a controlling creep; there’s nothing to slay, and her mom won’t hear a word against him.
She tries to take out her anger on vampires again, but they aren’t coming out to play tonight. She goes back home, and when she climbs in through her window, she finds Ted waiting in her room. He’s been snooping in her stuff and reading her diary! He plans to use all the Vampire Slayer stuff to blackmail her into cooperating with his relationship with Joyce. She won’t let him leave her room with the diary, and he punches her! She takes that as permission to fight back. Joyce hears the sounds, and as soon as she’s in sight, Ted stops fighting back and just lets Buffy whale on him until she knocks him down the stairs, breaking his neck. He’s dead!
Paramedics come and take Ted’s body away. Buffy is in shock. She didn’t think it would go that far. Joyce doesn’t know what to think, but she isn’t the one who tells the police Buffy was responsible. They go to the police station, and a detective interviews Buffy. She tells him about Ted’s hostility towards her, but her lack of bruises makes her story seem kinda flimsy (not fair). The detective actually seems to be on her side, but Buffy’s still very upset. She and Joyce have a silent drive home.
The next day at school, Buffy is wearing her Sad Overalls, and it seems like everyone is whispering about what she did to Ted. Willow and Xander find her. Xander asks what Ted was, but that’s the problem. He was just a guy. Xander and Willow are still on her side, but Buffy is hardcore blaming herself. Giles finds her, and he’s being very supportive, but there are police officers in the library, so they don’t really get to have a moment.
All the Scoobies are now trying to prove that Ted wasn’t just a normal guy so that it will retroactively make it okay that Buffy killed him. Giles goes out to patrol in Buffy’s place. Xander is angry and determined to make sure Buffy doesn’t end up in jail, but then he eats one of Ted’s cookies and he’s suddenly calm and optimistic. Willow grabs the cookie, very suspicious.
At Buffy’s house, Joyce is packing up some old kitchen stuff (probably the stuff Ted used when he cooked there). Buffy tries to apologize, but Joyce doesn’t want to talk to her.
The cookies are drugged! The reason everyone was so Team Ted was that he baked tranquilizers and other mood-altering drugs into all his food. This is evidence of shadiness that will help Buffy in court! Cordelia has also found Ted’s records, so they’re going to keep investigating. Um. Guys? You really ought to turn this over to the police right now or you might end up rendering all of the evidence inadmissible.
Jenny shows up to join Giles on his patrol! A vampire attacks them, and Jenny accidentally shoots Giles with the crossbow. Giles pulls the bolt out of his side and stakes the vampire with it. It only got tweed, so he’s okay. And now they’re okay!
At Buffy’s house, she tries to go out the window again, but it’s been nailed shut! HOLY CRAP TED IS BACK. He scolds Buffy for killing him. She’s completely baffled. What the heck is he? He throws her across the room. Buffy fights him again, not afraid of using Slayer strength anymore. He tries to strangle her, and she stabs him with a nail file. HE’S A ROBOT! Oh. Okay. Ted knocks Buffy out and, now glitching, rolls his sleeve down to hide his exposed wires and goes down to find Joyce.
Xander, Willow, and Cordy are investigating Ted’s place (which looks remarkably similar to the Magic Box set). Willow’s been looking through his files and has found four marriage certificates and counting. Xander replies, “So either our boy was a Mormon, or…” *punches Xander in the face* That line makes me so angry. Ignorant potshots at other people’s religions are not good joke material, Joss and David! Anyway, the dates on the marriage certificates are weird. The earliest one was from the fifties. Ted is not that old. Cordelia finds a trapdoor, which leads to a ‘50s-style underground apartment in a bomb shelter. They find Ted’s previous wives in the closet. Pretty sure even their tampering won’t make evidence of that magnitude inadmissible.
Ted joins Joyce in the kitchen. At first, she’s happy to see him, but he’s a little off. When she mentions Buffy, he gets really angry, and then he starts glitching again. She’s less happy now. Buffy comes to upstairs and hurries down to deal with Ted. Turns out Ted keeps finding women who look like his first wife (who left him), and then he takes them to that bunker until they die. He knocks Joyce out and he’s going to carry her out of the house, but Buffy and Ted’s cast iron skillet offer a strong objection. Her blow ripped open his face, so the metal under his skin is exposed. He keeps glitching until he shorts out entirely. Goodbye, Ted!
Buffy and Joyce are sitting on their porch bench. Joyce is very glad everything with Ted is over. The police found the bodies in his apartment, and since he wasn’t actually dead, Buffy is cleared of any suspicion. At school, maybe Willow is a little too impressed with the real Ted’s robotic skills, especially since he was working with ‘50s technology when he built Ted2.0. When they arrive at the library, they find Giles and Jenny kissing.
While this episode definitely isn’t anywhere near my top ten (largely because I really REALLY don’t like when the Buffyverse does urban sci-fi instead of urban fantasy), I have to give it some points for attempting to deal with important themes, both in Plot A and in Plot B. In Plot A, Buffy can’t use her Slayer abilities to solve regular life problems, because people could get hurt or even killed. She also has to have proof of Plot A weirdness before she acts on her instincts. The Plot B themes are interesting too. First, there’s the importance of not being too selfish to let your divorced parents date other people, and then there’s the fear and isolation that comes when nobody listens to you about an abusive parental figure. Unfortunately, the Plot A themes don’t really mix well with the Plot B themes. As soon as Ted turns out to be a robot, it negates all of Buffy’s guilt over unleashing Slayer fury on him, and by the end of the episode, she’s probably going to be even more inclined than before to be suspicious of any of Joyce’s love interests. His being a robot also cheapens the threat he presented as an abusive potential step-father, just like Miss French being a giant preying mantis made her silly when, as a sexually abusive teacher, she should’ve been extremely sinister. Also, WHY DOES NOBODY BELIEVE BUFFY? The tiny Giles/Jenny subplot is nice, though, as is the Buffy/Angel scene.
If Ted had turned out to be just a human, then the whole thing about Buffy accidentally killing him could’ve drastically affected the season arc. She would’ve had to go to court. Snyder probably would’ve used it as an excuse to try to expel her. There might’ve been serious divisions in the Scoobies as they tried and failed to find a way that Ted really deserved to die. Even if he still had been a serial killer, it wouldn’t have justified Buffy killing him, especially since she acted before she knew what he’d done. But he’s just a robot, and he was killing women, so none of that matters. The 24 hours Buffy spends thinking she’s gone from Slayer to murderer are pretty much forgotten by the end, and it feels like a cheap escape after how hard she was taking it. Even though everything with Ted gets wrapped up with a neat little bow by the end because he’s a serial killing robot, the fact that it doesn’t even occur to Buffy not to take responsibility for her actions is very admirable. However, the only thing she really takes away from this episode is that she should respect Joyce’s dating life (as long as the guy is human and not a creep).
Willow gets some points for siding with Buffy even when it seemed like her hatred of Ted was completely arbitrary, but she doesn’t really get character development.
Xander and Cordy (still a unit) have decided they can go forward with both the snogging and the arguing. Nothing else has to change. I still find them baffling.
Giles does a little (but not enough) to make up for not having lots of strong scenes with Buffy for two episodes. Even more than in “What’s My Line,” she really needed his support this time. It’s not that he withheld it, but he didn’t take her aside and give her a comforting speech, which I think she could’ve benefited from. At least things with Jenny are finally better.
Angel continues to be Buffy’s primary confidant, since Giles hasn’t been stepping up lately. He and Buffy are getting pretty good at nonverbal communication. All it takes is one earnest look from him and she realizes that she's putting unrealistic expectations on her mom's potential suitors. It's such a sweet scene.
“Shouldn’t there be different rules for her?”
“Sure, in a fascist society.”
“Right! Why can’t we have one of those?”
12/8/2015 06:19:05 am
Although I'm inclined to agree with you (and most everyone, far as I've seen) that it would have been far more interesting if Ted had just been a real, sucky person that Buffy accidentally killed while intentionally fighting him, the fallout from that would have been, like, season arc material. Then we would have had to watch an entire season of Ted fallout. Ugh.
Lenore Warren, M.A.
12/8/2015 07:06:18 am
This is true. But maybe if they'd wanted to actually get real about an arc dealing with Buffy killing someone, they would've come up with a better character for it than Ted.
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The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.