“Beauty and the Beasts”
Written by Marti Noxon
Directed by James Whitmore, Jr.
We open travelling through a forest with a Buffy voiceover that blends into Willow reading Call of the Wild. Willow is babysitting wolf-Oz, which looks even more ridiculous than it did in “Phases.” At least then it had a snout. Now it just looks like some kind of gorilla monster. Xander comes in to relieve Willow, and they briefly discuss her relationship with Oz. Nobody should ever put Xander on guard duty, because three seconds after Willow leaves, he climbs on the study table and settles in for a good nap.
Buffy and Faith are patrolling, and Faith wants to know how things are going with Buffy and Dweeby Guy, because they’ve been dating since the end of “Faith, Hope, and Trick.” Buffy likes him, but Faith is more focused on the physical side of things (which are progressing very slowly, thank you). Faith has a very cynical idea about men.
Transition to some kind of monster we can’t see chasing down—oh hey, it’s Douchey McLetterjacket from “Teacher’s Pet”! Hi, Douchey McLetterjacket!
Dweeby Guy catches up with Buffy as she’s walking with Willow and Oz, and these two other kids who seem to be the Willow and Oz of Dweeby Guy’s circle of friends. Dweeby Guy is anxious that he missed the flowers stage of their relationship (why would he be anxious about that when he tried to give her a Claddagh ring before they ever had a date?), but Buffy reassures him.
In the library, Giles and Xander are panicking because someone was mauled to death the night before. They don’t call him Douchey McLetterjacket, though. Now his name is Jeff. The reason they’re worrying is that the window in the book cage where wolf-Oz was locked up was open all night. So Oz might be the one who killed Jeff. He’s stoically devastated.
Buffy has to meet with the school counselor as part of her checklist of reenrollment. The counselor, Mr. Platt, is in the same mold as Dr. Gregory from “Teacher’s Pet.” He tells her that everyone’s a little bit crazy, and that’s okay. It’s still difficult for Buffy to talk to him because there’s too much supernatural stuff mixed in. She tells him what she can about Angel. He’s pretty perceptive. He tells her that it’s okay to lose oneself in love, but not to stay lost.
When Buffy goes to the library, she finds all the Scoobies looking super bummed. Xander and Cordelia spill tactlessness all over the situation. Giles sends everyone on assignments to verify the cause of Jeff’s death, and he wants Faith to be the one who watches wolf-Oz that night. Oz wants to bail dramatically in his own non-dramatic way, but it’s too close to sundown for that, so he walks into the cage instead. He doesn’t want to talk to Willow, and she’s a little hurt.
Outside in the woods that night, Buffy is patrolling alone. Something’s moving around in the undergrowth. That something knocks her down, and she looks up and sees that it’s ANGEL! Who somehow has pants now.
But hey, I guess if he can get fully dressed while he’s in the agony of losing his soul, then pants should be an easy task. He’s very growly and uncoordinated, mostly moving around on all fours. She knocks him out, then takes a moment to reel.
In the morgue, Willow pulls open the corpse locker with Jeff’s body in it. Xander and Cordelia show up too. His body looks pretty gross (I assume…Xander and Cordelia are freaking out, but the camera doesn’t really show us much). Willow collects some samples from the wounds, then passes out.
Buffy digs through a trunk of Spike and Drusilla’s stuff at the mansion and finds a set of manacles and a long chain. She uses these to restrain Angel, who’s still all growly. She sees scorch marks on the floor where he landed.
Buffy goes to the library, where Faith is jamming out to music on her walkman. Faith smacks her on the face when she taps her on the shoulder, and she’s totally fine with getting to leave early. Buffy’s there to do secret research.
In the morning, Oz is back in human form and Giles finds Buffy asleep with books about Acathla all around her. They greet each other very adorably before Buffy gets all evasive about the research she’s doing. She tells Giles a hypothetical scenario about maybe a dream she might’ve had in which Angel was vaguely involved. ARGH. BE DIRECT, WOMAN. What she wants is to know if it would be possible for Angel to come back and what he’d be like if he did. He tells her there would likely be significant time dilation, meaning that Angel has spent at least a hundred years in hell. He might have been completely destroyed, mentally.
Willow arrives with doughnuts. She spent most of the night stressing because of Oz. He comes over in time for her to have a foot-in-mouth moment. Her investigation of the body wasn’t conclusive as to the cause of death. Buffy gets a little intense with her questioning of Willow, then realizes everyone else thinks she’s being weird, so she backs off.
In the cafeteria, Buffy brings a tray of all the different types of jello and nothing else over to the table with Dweeby Guy and his friends Debby and Pete. They discuss Mr. Platt. Dweeby Guy tries to lift Buffy’s spirits, but her spirits refuse to lift, and she leaves. She goes to the mansion and cautiously tries to approach Angel. Interestingly, she seems to have supplied him with shoes, but not with a shirt.
He’s just as growly as before, and he snarls and lashes out when she tries to touch his shoulder. It’s starting to look like he might be beyond saving. She leaves, horrified.
Debbie and Pete are making out, and they end up in some kind of utility room where there’s a jar of glowy stuff that makes Pete freak out.
Buffy goes to Mr. Platt’s office and tries to explain about Angel being back. She doesn’t feel like she can talk to Willow or Giles or anyone else (NOT TRUE! TALK TO GILES!). Unfortunately, Mr. Platt can no longer help, because he’s been killed by the same thing that killed Jeff.
In the utility room, Pete starts questioning Debbie about the jar of glowy stuff. Apparently he’s some kind of Jekyll/Hyde wacko, and Debbie is the girl unfortunate enough to be his girlfriend. His face goes all gross and veiny, and then he starts hitting her for paying attention to other guys. After reducing her to tears (and a bloody nose), he turns apologetic and his face goes back to normal. But he’s not actually sorry, because all he says to her is that she knows better than to make him angry. She ends up hugging him and stroking his hair, comforting him. Ugh.
In the library, there’s good news. It’s horrible how Jeff and Mr. Platt died, but Mr. Platt at least was killed in the day, which means that neither Oz nor Angel is the culprit (which we the audience already know).
Debbie meets Oz for the notes they discussed earlier. She has a fresh shiner and smeared mascara. He asks her about it, but she evades. Nearby, Pete is watching.
Oz arrives in the library, and Willow tells him he’s not the killer! He’s very relieved, but they still need to find the killer. Debbie is the connection to both dead guys. For a second, they think Debbie is the culprit, but then Buffy suggests it could be Pete. They split up to track down Debbie and Pete (except Oz, who has to lock himself in the cage).
Buffy and Willow confront Debbie and try to get information out of her. She’s very protective of Pete, and she blames herself for what he’s done. They try to convince her that Pete’s actions prove that he doesn’t actually love her. This is not a concept she handles well.
Meanwhile at the mansion, Angel breaks off the sconce holding his manacles in place and leaves the mansion. Uh-oh.
Pete comes into the library to confront Oz about supposedly making a move on Debbie. Pete goes all veiny and rips the cage door off, and they fight. Oz is no match…until the sun sets. It’s one of the most awesome Oz moments ever. He transforms, and wolf-Oz pounces on Pete.
Everyone else hears Pete yelling after Oz bites him, and Buffy tries to tranq Oz, but Debbie pushes the gun, so the dart hits Giles instead. Bahaha. So funny. Faith takes the tranq gun and runs after Oz, and Buffy runs after Pete. Together, Willow and Faith manage to subdue wolf-Oz and tranq him.
Debbie catches up with Pete first, and he starts accusing her of being the reason everything’s going to crap. He attacks her. Buffy doesn’t find them in the utility room until she’s dead. She fights Pete, and he has her on the ropes when growly Angel shows up. He attacks Pete. It seems like a toss-up fight for a moment, but then Angel gets the chain around Pete’s throat and breaks his neck, which makes Buffy flinch. Then he turns to face her. As he approaches her, his features melt back from vampiric to human. He says her name, then falls to his knees, crying and holding onto her like she’s the only thing that matters. Tears streak her face. The camera pulls back to show the full scene, including Pete’s and Debbie’s bodies.
The next day, the gang discusses all the rumors flying around about Pete and Debbie. None of them come close to the truth. Somehow, Cordelia was out of the loop on what really happened. Buffy spots Dweeby Guy sitting by himself, and she goes over to him. He’s reeling from what happened to his two childhood friends.
Buffy’s Call of the Wild voiceover from the beginning resumes, and we see Buffy watching over Angel as he sleeps fitfully on the cement floor of the mansion. (Um, why didn’t she take him to his bedroom? Is it necessary for him to sleep on the cement floor? This makes no sense.)
I’ve always liked “Beauty and the Beasts.” It’s not one of the show’s best episodes by any means. Much of the story is taken up by characters we’ve never met before and therefore don’t particularly care about, but there’s a much stronger connection between these one-shot characters and what’s going on with the characters we do care about than in episodes like “Some Assembly Required” and “Nightmares,” so it works a little better. Pete and Debbie are the show’s attempt to see what happens to abusive relationships when you add in a supernatural component. I don’t think they did a terrible job with it, but it’s really too big of an issue to tackle with one-shot characters in a single episode. I think they got a few things right: from the outside, it might look like a normal relationship; the abuser blames the victim for his behavior; the victim comforts the abuser. I think it was probably more powerful, storytelling-wise, for Debbie and Pete’s relationship to end with Debbie’s death than if she’d suddenly been like “You’re right, Buffy and Willow! He’s a complete jerk! I’ll be better off without him!” which would’ve turned it into a Very Special Episode. As for what’s unambiguously good about the episode, the parallels between Buffy/Angel and Willow/Oz are nice, we get to see Faith fitting in pretty well as part of the group, and the cliffhanger about Angel’s sudden return gets resolved. Not only are there parallels in the way Buffy and Willow react to the possibility that the men they love could be killing people, but there’s a parallel between Oz and Angel too. Both have to embrace their inner beasts in order to beat Pete, which is just a little bit ominous. There’s a lot of fantastic humor, and the dynamic of the Scoobies seems to finally be back on track. Nobody’s treating Buffy like crap and Xander is the one whose carelessness is causing problems, so things are officially normal again. Also, would Pete have been a werewolf if he’d survived? Oz definitely bit him.
Oh, Buffy, you think you have to go through this alone, but you don’t! What has Giles said or done recently to make you think you can’t confide in him about Angel? This isn’t something you can keep secret forever, but he’ll be understanding as long as you don’t keep it from him for a really long time! Gah. So frustrating. And Willow, being the one who did the curse to put Angel’s soul back, would be even more sympathetic. But I really can’t blame Buffy for her fearful secretiveness. Things haven’t been easy for her ever since she came back. The way the Scoobies have treated her, she now feels like they’ll completely reject her if she ever shows signs of weakness or tries to share her problems with them again. It’s so sad.
Xander’s only role in this episode is pretty much being super irresponsible by falling asleep during his Oz-watch. His carelessness drives much of the angst in the first half. Way to go, Xander. Oh, and he also has an opportunity to be completely insensitive in the face of Oz’s fear that he is now a violent murderer. At least his interactions with Buffy are at a minimum and he’s not drooling after Faith while Cordelia watches.
Willow wants Oz to confide his fears in her the same way she wanted Buffy to confide in her in “Dead Man’s Party.” That’s what being a girlfriend and a best friend means: the other person trusts you enough to be vulnerable around you. So far this season, nobody’s been letting her do that. She hasn’t been perfect either, of course, but I still find her the most sympathetic of everyone who wasn’t on Buffy’s side in “Dead Man’s Party.” Like Buffy’s issues with hiding her problems, Willow’s unfulfilled desire to be the shoulder the people she loves cry on is going to snowball into something much worse.
Cordelia is barely in this episode. She just tag-teams with Xander about being insensitive when Oz thinks he might’ve just killed a guy.
Once again, we see Oz’s tendency to try to solve his problems by himself. That isn’t an option this time, so instead of physically removing himself from everyone else, he removes himself emotionally. He reconnects immediately once it’s confirmed that he isn’t the killer, but not before. Ever since “Pangs,” we’ve had no indication that Oz has any feelings other than “meh” about being a werewolf, but this time we get a glimpse of how troubling and difficult it can be for him.
Giles doesn’t have many big moments, but some of the best humor comes from him as well as some of the best emotion. His speech to Buffy about two types of monster works on so many levels. We see shadows of what he suffered at Angelus’s hands, but also how he saw Angel. His tone and expression suggest that he may have lost his ability to clearly separate the two, but he still shows a great deal of sympathy and compassion to Buffy.
Angel is back! And it’s like his time in hell has turned him into one of those dogs who’s been abused and neglected for so long that it’s forgotten what affection is like. My guess is that in all his time in hell, nobody ever spoke to him or listened to him. He was just tortured endlessly by things that loved torturing him. Eventually, language would have lost its meaning, but it only takes him a few days to get it back once he starts hearing it again.
“We have a marching jazz band?”
“Yeah, but since the best jazz is improvisational, we’d be going off in different directions, banging into floats…scary.”
“There’s no reason to panic!”
“Just a thought? Poker: not your game.”
“Time’s up. Rules change.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.