“I Only Have Eyes for You”
Written by Marti Noxon
Directed by James Whitmore Jr.
We’re at the Bronze, and the lead singer of the less-nerdy-than-usual band is wearing the weirdest dress I have ever seen outside of a Charmed episode.
Buffy is standing on the balcony, looking mopey. A rather cute (albeit terribly dressed) guy comes up to her. Apparently he’s been crushing on her for a while, and he is super adorable. I already like him better than Owen (and I know I like him better than Scott in S3) He tries to nudge Buffy into asking him to the girls’ choice dance. Buffy, however, has decided she will remain single forever. He offers his awkward sympathy and slinks away. Downstairs, Willow gently calls Buffy out on her recent asocial behavior. Buffy is still guilt tripping hard over what happened to Angel, so she isn’t interested in following Willow’s advice. Willow points out that love isn’t always a horror show, and…does this mean Oz will be in the episode? Yes please?
Oh, apparently it means we’ll have an ironic transition to a very angry argument between a couple in the halls of Sunnydale High, which ends with the guy pulling an oddly old-fashioned gun on the girl. *sigh* Well, maybe Oz will still show up at some point.
After the credits, the guy is still pointing the gun at the girl, but Buffy arrives in time to tackle him and knock the gun out of his hand. He and the girl are suddenly extremely confused about what just happened, and when they look around, the gun has vanished.
The next day, Snyder calls Buffy into his office. He thinks Buffy is responsible for the whatever just happened the previous night. When he gets called out to deal with a student protestor, the 1955 yearbook falls off a bookshelf. Buffy puts it back without opening it, clearly not having realized that yearbooks don’t just slide all the way out of their slots on shelves and fall to the floor on their own normally.
Willow is still teaching Jenny’s classes (HOW?!) and loving it, and Giles swings by to check on her. Apparently Jenny had all the lesson plans on her computer. Wait, this computer?
Granted, the monitor was the only part on fire. Did Willow manage to recover all the files from the hard drive? Willow also found a bunch of stuff about magic on the computer, and she is clearly extremely interested. She gives Giles a rose quartz from Jenny’s drawer. Cue the Giles/Jenny musical theme from earlier episodes. Aww.
In history class, Buffy spaces out…right into a 1955 classroom. Did someone lend her a DeLorean? All the students file out except one, a boy, who shares a rather romantic moment with his young female teacher. They’re both shy and tentative, so it’s not as disturbing as you’d think.
Buffy snaps out of the moment in time to see that her history teacher has written “DON’T WALK AWAY FROM ME BITCH” on the chalkboard, apparently without realizing it. Buffy’s pretty sure something weird is going on. Xander is this week’s skeptic, which is the cue for a rotten arm to reach out of his locker and grab him by the shirt, repeatedly slamming him into it (and shredding the shirt in the process). Buffy manages to pull him away. When she looks in the locker again, there’s nothing there.
Buffy and Xander join Willow and Giles in the library. Giles is intrigued, and Willow seems to be catching his “Supernatural stuff yay!” bug, because she’s psyched about the possibility of a ghost. Xander sets them straight: this ghost is mean. Giles thinks they might be dealing with a poltergeist. They’ll have to resolve its unfinished business to get it to go away.
That evening, a teacher lady and the janitor from the earlier scene with the two kids and the gun start acting out the same scene as the kids. She’s breaking up with him, and he’s handling it extremely badly. He pulls the same gun on her (which appears out of nowhere).
In the library, Giles hears the end of their argument, a ghostly female voice whispering “I need you,” and then he sees the janitor shoot the teacher. She topples over the balcony and lies there, dead. He tackles the janitor, and the gun turns into mist. The janitor has no idea what just happened.
Angelus is introducing Drusilla and Spike to their swanky new digs. He’s found them a weird-looking mansion with an overgrown courtyard and lots of windows. Spike isn’t impressed, but Drusilla is in transports of delight. Angelus mocks Spike (who is still in a wheelchair) and plies Drusilla with a sprig of jasmine blossoms right in front of him. By this point, Spike seems more resigned than angry.
Giles tells the kids what happened the night before. He thinks the ghost is Jenny. All of the kids are super skeptical. None of the details match the way Jenny died. Giles isn’t interested in their theories. The kids leave, and Willow and Xander don’t get why he’s being so myopic all of a sudden. Buffy says it’s because he misses Jenny so much he can’t think straight, and she’s back on her guilt trip.
They decide to tackle the research without him, and Willow finds an archived newspaper article about the student/teacher couple Buffy saw in her weird flashback thing. The student, James, shot the teacher, Grace, and then killed himself. Buffy tells them about her dream in history class. She is majorly unsympathetic towards James, and she thinks he’s the ghost they’re dealing with. Willow wants to do a séance or something, but Buffy doesn’t want to communicate with James; she wants to get rid of him. Shockingly, Xander paraphrases The Merchant of Venice here, when he says “The quality of mercy is not Buffy.”
Cut to the cafeteria, where lunch ladies are ladling up singularly unappetizing-looking food. Cordelia is not okay with the idea of the Sadie Hawkins dance, because she feels that guys should always be the ones who pay for dates. Her rant is interrupted when all of the food on everyone’s trays turns into SNAKES. Everyone freaks out and stampedes for the exits. One of the snakes bites Cordy on the cheek. The whole school gets closed while a pest control team wrangles the snakes.
A police officer talks with Snyder about the cover story. Snyder knows about the Hellmouth! The officer threatens to bring Snyder before the Mayor if he can’t handle his job. (This is probably one of the coolest pieces of inter-season foreshadowing in the series.)
The Scoobies are at Buffy’s house. Willow says they need to do an exorcism. She’s done some magic research. In order to bind the spirit, all four of them need to chant stuff from specific spots in the school. They get to the school and go over the plan. Willow also made them little protective baggies to wear around their necks. She calls them “scapulas,” and I can’t find anything about mystical protective objects of that name, but I can find a lot of stuff about scapulars, which are used in Catholicism and are about the same size as the things Willow passes out, although they do not involve sulfur in any way. Did Marti Noxon just get that one wrong? Just when they’re about to split up and head to their assigned places, all the doors in the school fly closed.
Drusilla is still delighted about the new place. And now she’s having a vision about Buffy in danger. She tells Angelus to go meet her. Spike jeers that Angelus never actually does anything, and Angelus proves him wrong by getting super handsy with Dru. Spike gets that frozen expression of “you are so screwed when I get out of this wheelchair,” but says nothing.
Willow runs into Giles outside the library. He’s going to try a séance with Jenny. He compliments Willow on her scapula. In the bathroom, Cordelia peels off her bandaid to look at her snakebite. It doesn’t look so bad. Buffy walks past the music room, and she sees James and Grace dancing. Xander carefully navigates the snake-covered cafeteria to get to his spot.
Creepy things are happening everywhere. Buffy sees James’s face turn creepy and rotten. Cordelia’s snake bite cracks open and her whole face is a mess. Willow gets pulled into the floor on the landing between the first and second floor. Giles arrives in time to pull her free before she can get sucked all the way in.
Buffy goes to the balcony where she’s supposed to chant from, and ghost James yells at her to get out. Cordelia’s face is back to normal. Giles accepts that Jenny isn’t the one doing this. A clock starts chiming midnight somewhere, and the Scoobies all start their chants. All seems quiet, and everyone’s candles blow out. But then there’s a scary rumbling noise. Which is coming from a SWARM OF WASPS. Buffy kicks the doors open and they all flee to the street in front of the school.
Back at Buffy’s house, they’re regrouping. They have to figure out how to resolve James’s issues. Buffy impatiently points out that James wants forgiveness. Which she doesn’t think he deserves. Giles says something rather profound: “Forgiveness is an act of compassion, Buffy. It’s not done because people deserve it, it’s done because they need it.” But she doesn’t care. Cordelia notices that, as harsh as Buffy’s being about James, she’s actually identifying with him pretty hard.
Buffy storms into the kitchen and pulls something out of her jacket pocket. It’s the Sadie Hawkins flier from ’55, and a ghostly male voice whispers “I need you.” She walks, zombie-like, out of the house.
Giles thinks it’s too risky for them to go into the school again, but Buffy walks right up to it. The wasps part and she goes inside unhindered. They close in behind her so that nobody else could follow. Back at her house, the others realize she’s gone and that she’s now possessed. They go to the school. Giles doesn’t get how James can live out his scenario again, because there’s only Buffy in the school.
What they don’t know is that Angelus is there too. Buffy starts repeating James’s lines, not Grace’s. He mocks her for a few seconds, then gets taken over by Grace and starts saying her lines. They act out the whole scene (and serious points to David Boreanaz for his portrayal of Grace). For the first time, we see that James pulled the trigger by mistake. We don’t actually see James pull the trigger, though; we see Buffy do it, because this is more about her unresolved guilt over Angel than it is about James and Grace. Grace/Angelus topples over the balcony onto the bottom of the stairs in the courtyard. James/Buffy walks, expression lifeless, to the music room. But luckily, Angelus is a vampire, so Grace can keep playing the part beyond what happened in 1955. James/Buffy turns on a record player, which plays “I Only Have Eyes for You.” Buffy is about to shoot herself when Angelus arrives. Grace forgives James for accidentally shooting her and tells him she still loves him. They kiss, and then Grace and James depart in a cloud of white light, leaving Buffy and Angelus still kissing. Angelus realizes what’s going on, shoves Buffy away from him, and flees.
The Scoobies gather in the library. All the wasps and snakes are gone from the school. Buffy still doesn’t understand why Grace would forgive James. Translated, she doesn’t understand why Angel would ever forgive her for breaking his curse.
At the mansion, Angelus is violently scrubbing himself with water from the fountain to get Grace’s love out of him.
He and Drusilla head out to go kill some people to help get it out of his system. They leave Spike behind. Spike steps out of his wheelchair and kicks it away. He’s all better! That’s not going to go well for Angelus.
“I Only Have Eyes for You” is probably the best episode in season two after “Surprise”/“Innocence,” “Passion,” “Becoming,” and “When She Was Bad.” I’d say it’s tied with “Lie to Me.” It’s definitely better than “School Hard,” because it’s dealing with much weightier stuff than just Buffy struggling to balance her schedule. This episode deals with Buffy’s guilt and Giles’s grief, and for bonus points, it’s the episode that first introduces Willow’s interest in witchcraft. The subplot about James and Grace is very effectively woven into the emotional stuff Buffy and Giles are going through, unlike episodes like “Some Assembly Required” and “Nightmares,” where too much of the focus is on random one-shot characters who don’t really have much of an emotional parallel to any of the characters we care about. Grace/James is about as effective of a normal-human-couple parallel to Angel/Buffy as we can get. Buffy and James are both minors, and Angel and Grace are supposed to be responsible enough adults not to get involved with said minors. (Obviously it's not quite so black-and-white; Buffy has more responsibility on her than most adults and Angel always let her set the pace in their relationship, but it's still a parallel that works.) The stakes also get raised pretty high, with the whole school being affected by the haunting to the point where it has to shut down. And, of course, the reveal that Snyder not only knows about monsters, he knows about the Hellmouth. The entire bureaucracy of Sunnydale is in on keeping the supernatural stuff hushed up, and the Mayor is in charge of it all. This episode might not seem like a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, but it sets quite a few important balls rolling.
Even if Buffy finished “Passion” determined to kill Angelus and her experience avenging her cousin Celia against Der Kindestod added momentum to that determination, she still hasn’t dealt with her guilt over breaking Angel’s curse. That’s what “I Only Have Eyes for You” is about. Buffy feels unforgivable for what she did, even though it was an accident and she and Angel really loved each other. Like Grace, Angel is gone and therefore unable to reassure Buffy that he doesn’t blame her for what happened and that he wishes he could be there to comfort her. By the end of the episode, she still doesn’t feel particularly forgivable, but the self-loathing has been stripped out of her attitude. We’ll see the changes this experience has wrought in “Go Fish,” when she actually spends some time with a guy she might want to date. (Even if she quickly realizes that he’s an entitled douchebag, her initial response to him is vastly different to how she reacts to cute Ben at the Bronze, so, progress!)
Willow is still interested in teaching, and now she’s also interested in witchcraft! She’s not off to a great start, though. The scapulas didn’t seem to have much of an effect, and neither did the binding spell. But this is the first time she’s been in charge of The Magic Solution in an episode. Before, in episodes like “Witch,” “I Robot, You Jane,” and “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,” it was always Giles at the helm. This is the beginning of a pattern that will last for the rest of the series.
Cordelia is now so much a part of the group that she sits with them in the cafeteria, rather than hanging out with her gang of popular girls. Marti Noxon does a good job of writing her as both shallow and bluntly perceptive.
Xander doesn’t have a lot to do here, but what he does do is good. When Buffy gets super harsh about James, Xander isn’t entirely on board. He seems genuinely concerned about her emotional state for her sake, which may be a first. I hope it continues.
We only got a couple of glimpses of how Giles has been coping with Jenny’s death in “Killed by Death,” but here, his whole role is consumed by it. He’s letting his grief cloud his ability to think rationally about supernatural threats. It’s extremely significant that he’s the one to talk to Buffy about forgiveness. Even though it wouldn’t be an enormous stretch if he were to blame Buffy for Jenny’s death, he has nothing but compassion for Buffy. I’m not sure she feels like she deserves such kind treatment from him.
This episode is a really interesting turning point for Angelus. Up until now, he’s been content to take his time on his whole Buffy=Drusilla2.0 project. Unlike Spike, Angelus has never really been one to pick fights with people stronger than him. If such a fight presents itself, he won’t necessarily run away, but he certainly doesn’t seek those fights out. Spike is a Gryffindor, rashly throwing himself into fights without planning and getting a huge rush from life-threatening situations. Angelus is a Slytherin, biding his time and carefully calculating everything before he strikes. He knows Buffy killed the Master, so maybe the reason he’s going so slow is that he wants to be completely sure he will win. The only reason he killed Jenny was that she was a direct threat to him. If he hadn’t killed her, she would’ve restored his soul. Buffy is not nearly as vulnerable of a target as Drusilla was, but he’s too captivated by the idea of destroying someone who loves him, who his soul loved, to either let her go or kill her quickly. So what’s the turning point? Well, the Judge wasn’t really Angelus’s idea; he was Drusilla’s. Angelus has shown no real drive to end the world. He just wants to destroy Buffy. This is the episode where that changes. His appearance in “Go Fish” isn’t really worth mentioning, but in “Becoming,” he’s ready to have the world swallowed into hell. So what changed? Angelus is a demon, both incapable of feeling real love and inherently opposed to the concept. Even though he stuck with Darla for a full century and a half (three decades longer than Spike and Dru have been together), they never loved each other. When Angelus was possessed by Grace, he was forced to feel love, and his entire being balked at it. If the world gets sucked into hell, it’s a guarantee that something like that will never happen again.
“People can be coerced, Summers. I’m no stranger to conspiracy; I saw JFK. I’m a truth-seeker. I’ve got a missing gun and two confused kids on my hands. Pieces of the puzzle. And I’m gonna look at all the pieces carefully and rationally, and I’m gonna keep looking until I know exactly how this is all your fault.”
“Mr. Snyder, Billy Crandall chained himself to the snack machine again.”
“Pathetic little no-life vegan. Not so fast, missy! I’m not done with you yet. You stink of lies.”
“This was no whimpy chain-rattler. This was ‘I’m dead as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore.’”
“You should never be cowed by authority. Except, of course, in this instance, when I am clearly right and you are clearly wrong.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.