Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by Regis Kimble
Buffy is fighting one of the grosser-looking demons the show has offered so far. Something about flesh-tone scales is just unnerving. Also, no mouth. A second demon joins the fight. Buffy manages to kill one, but the other skedaddles. She doesn’t notice some of the dead demon’s blood absorbing into her hand.
At school, Buffy and Willow enter the library, discussing the mouthless demons. The others have been researching the Ascension. They have learned basically nothing, except for a few things that won’t happen. Buffy is indignant; she doesn’t want Angel’s double-agenting to have been worthless. Wesley joins them, mocks Giles on his lack of progress, and then reveals that he has learned exactly as little by conferring with the Council. Everyone gets up to leave before he can even finish his sentence. Giles is smug.
Buffy is angsting about Angel and Faith. Willow, again, wisely recommends talking to Angel about it instead of just stewing in her mental worst-case scenario spiral. A bunch of basketball players stroll by. Xander pretends not to care, until the star player greets him by name. Percy and Willow talk about tutoring plans. She’s going to the game to support Percy. She rather tactlessly says it’s too bad Buffy’s going to miss out, since all the rest of the Scoobies will be there. Buffy’s a little bummed. Also, her hand is itchy.
She tells Giles about her itchy hand, and he finds information about the demon she slew. That particular species can infect humans with something demony. Buffy is horrified. Giles tries to keep her worries at a reasonable level, but he doesn’t want her coming in contact with the other demon.
The cheerleaders are doing some kind of pep rally thing in the courtyard. Buffy doesn’t see the appeal. Willow reads the scathing school newspaper review of pep rallies. It seems the newspaper isn’t always that condescending. Buffy’s still freaking out about her demonic infection, and Willow tries to reassure her, but reassurance works better when it comes with the reassurer’s full attention, which she is not giving. Xander is trying to convince Oz (well, himself) that he’s completely over Cordelia, but that falls apart the second he sees Wesley pause on the way up the stairs to look at her.
Buffy is patrolling, and she’s wearing her gorgeous raspberry coat again. Yay! She checks her reflection for signs of the demony infection manifesting with a hand mirror, which is, of course, Angel’s cue to pull an Angel. Seems like a long time since he’s done that. I miss that. No wait, this is a different raspberry coat. Holy crap how many overcoats does one girl need? The count has to be in the double-digits by now. Is it just because they tend to get ruined when she wears them to go slaying?
Instead of talking to Angel about what’s bothering her like a mature person, she tries to provoke him about Faith. He doesn’t rise, and he gets her to tell him what’s bothering her. Instead of telling him what’s bothering her about him, she tells him about the demony infection. And also about how everyone else is at the game but she’s not. He snaps her out of her depressing spiral with cute declarations of love and solidarity. Aww.
The Scoobies are chatting excitedly (or in Oz’s case, calmly) about the game, which they all enjoyed. They try to reel it in when Buffy shows up. Since patrol was thoroughly uneventful, she’s even more depressed that she missed the game. Then she hears Xander’s thoughts about whether Wesley and Cordy have kissed yet. She realizes that this is what the demony infection is! Telepathy!
As she walks down the hall, she hears a bunch of people’s thoughts as she passes. My favorite is a guy wearing his pants that dumb way where a couple of inches of his boxers show above them, who is thinking “I swear, one day my pants are gonna fall right off.” Yes. Because it’s a dumb way to wear your pants. Do guys do that because they think girls will think it’s hot? Because every girl I’ve ever asked about it agrees with me that it’s so dumb. Any guy who thinks that’s attractive should be forced to listen to “Sharp Dressed Man” until he sees the light. Anyway. One of the guys in the hall is having dirty thoughts about Buffy, which rather ruins the enjoyment she’s having, and it seems like another guy is thinking something similar, based on her expression.
In the library, she tells Giles about this. He’s skeptical until she recites what he was thinking about her shoes. It occurs to Giles that the reason those demons don’t need mouths is that they’re telepathic. Um. Talking is not the most essential thing we do with our mouths. How the heck do those demons eat? Buffy is psyched about what she could do with telepathy. Giles thinks she could use it as a battle advantage. But she’s mostly thinking about using it to sound clever in her English class, where they’re discussing Othello in a way completely unrelated to the theme of the season and episode, of course. Buffy reads from her teacher’s mind that Iago is more a dark reflection of Othello than he is a person. Which is something that could be said of Faith and Buffy as well. She hears the arrogant, dismissive thoughts of one of the guys in class, who is the newspaper editor. Nancy from “The Wish” is also in the class, only in this timeline she has a perm and is an intellectual snob. Willow’s thoughts imply that she doesn’t think Buffy is very smart. The discussion turns towards Othello’s reaction to Desdemona’s alleged infidelity, and it occurs to Buffy that she can use her telepathy to find out how Angel really felt about kissing Faith.
She goes to the mansion, where it looks like Angel just woke up. He’s all rumpled and groggy-looking. It’s a look he pulls off rather well. Buffy rambles at him, trying to provoke his thoughts to go in a Faith direction, and she’s increasingly confused when she doesn’t hear a single thought from him no matter what she ways. Then he tells her it won’t work; she can’t get into his head. Vampires are naturally immune to telepathy. She pouts, and he tells her to just ask him what he’s thinking. He has good answers. He wants Buffy, not Faith or anyone else. She’s the only woman he’s ever loved. He tells her to be careful with her telepathy. It might not be as wonderful as it seems. Then he does some excellent deadpan snarking, which she enjoys.
She goes back to school, where all the Scoobies are in the library. Xander is panicked about what she’ll read in his thoughts. Cordelia doesn’t care. Oz has a philosophical debate with himself about the implications telepathy has on identity and autonomy. Willow is upset that the gulf between her and Buffy seems to be growing even bigger, and Buffy tries to assure her that it isn’t. Xander can’t stop thinking about sex, in a giggly, childish way. *rolls eyes* When Buffy calls him out on it, he runs away. Wesley tells them that they all need to have mental discipline, and then promptly shows very little of it by starting to think about Cordelia. Buffy watches him, amused, and he retreats into Giles’s office. She tries to tell Willow that this doesn’t have to be a bad thing for their friendship, but soon, Willow is leaving too. Oz follows her. Cordelia still doesn’t care. Well, Angel turned out to be right about this faster than expected.
The thoughts she hears as she walks down the hall again have a much more depressed tone on the whole than they did before, and she’s not having fun listening in anymore.
Giles finds an account of another human who was infected with telepathy, and he eventually had to go into isolation because it was driving him mad.
Buffy’s in the cafeteria now, and it’s getting worse. The voices get louder and louder until they’re a confused din. Then she hears one voice say “This time tomorrow, I’ll kill you all.” Uh oh. She drops her tray and grabs random people, trying to find the person whose mental voice matches that one. Then it all becomes too much. She grabs her head, then collapses.
When she comes to, the Scoobies have brought her outside. Cordelia still doesn’t care. Buffy tells them about the person who wants to commit mass murderer. She tries to go back to the cafeteria, but even taking a few steps closer to it brings the cacophony of voices back, and she staggers. Even the Scoobies thoughts are driving her nuts now. Particularly Oz’s, which are incessant. (Hahahahaha.) She reluctantly heads home, trusting them to deal with the murderer without her. Giles tries to tell her she’ll be okay, but then he thinks that she’ll go insane if it doesn’t stop, so that didn’t work.
The Scoobies are dividing and conquering with interrogating everyone who was in the cafeteria. YES. Interrogation room Willow is BACK. She is the funniest Willow.
Joyce is pampering Buffy as much as she can without spending more than five seconds at a time in her room. When Buffy tries to get her to stick around, she hesitates long enough for Buffy to read her thoughts about having had sex with Giles, twice, on the hood of that police car in “Band Candy.” Hahahahahahahahaha. Oh this episode is awesome.
Willow is being Boss Willow again, which we haven’t seen a lot of since S2. It’s fun. The Scoobies bow to her authority, which is very teacher-like. She interrogates Jonathan. She says “We all have fantasies where we’re powerful and respected, and people pay attention to us.” Gee, I wonder if that will give him ideas somewhere down the line. Somewhere almost exactly one season from now. She gets nothing out of him, though. Oz gets nothing out of the basketball star guy when he’s using Willow’s FBI profiles worksheet. Cordelia isn’t using the worksheet; she’s just asking the people on her list if they’re planning on committing mass murder tomorrow. Xander also isn’t using the worksheet; he’s just interviewing girls about their dating preferences. Focus, man! Mass murder! Oz checks the newspaper office, where the elitist editor guy is hiding under his desk.
Buffy is now hearing the thoughts of her neighbors. The range of her telepathy seems to be expanding. She’s completely miserable.
Giles and Wesley are working on a cure, but Giles is anxious that it won’t work and annoyed at Wesley’s chipper attitude. Angel finds the surviving demon to retrieve the key ingredient for the cure: the demon’s heart.
The next morning, the Scoobies are still interviewing people. Willow is wearing a really cute outfit.
Her interrogations still aren’t bearing fruit, though. Xander interrogates Larry. Just like Larry wasn’t a werewolf, he also isn’t a potential mass-murderer, and he once again thinks that Xander wants to talk about the struggles of living as a closeted gay man. Which Xander is not and very much does not want to talk about.
Freddie the elitist editor is still dodging Oz, which makes him the only suspect they haven’t eliminated yet.
Joyce is anxious that she’s hurting Buffy by thinking, but Giles doesn’t think individual sources of thought make much of a difference anymore. Angel pounds on the door. He’s here with the cure. He gets Buffy to drink it, and then she starts convulsing.
The Scoobies are going to track down Freddie and confront him, but they don’t see that Jonathan is up in the clock tower with a rifle.
Buffy wakes up with Angel sitting at her bedside. She’s cured.
The Scoobies corner Freddie, who, it turns out, was just avoiding Oz because he left a scathing review of Oz’s band in an earlier edition of the newspaper. Buffy arrives to help. She wants to convince Snyder to evacuate the school, but Cordelia has found an ominous note someone left to be included in the newspaper. By Jonathan. They split up to find him. Xander gets distracted by Jell-O being served in the cafeteria. FOCUS, MAN! Cordelia checks every short guy in a striped shirt (hahahaha). Buffy’s the one who does find him, just in time for him to have finished assembling the rifle. Even though it’s broad daylight and the courtyard is crowded, she uses her Slayer strength to reach Jonathan. She manages to talk him down from using the gun. Which he was only going to use to kill himself, not anyone else. So the aspiring mass murderer is still out there.
Xander’s quest for the choicest Jell-O leads him into the kitchen, where he catches the lunch lady pouring rat poison into the next batch. They stare at each other for a hilariously long moment before he bolts. She chases him with a cleaver, but Buffy intervenes. Seems like lunch lady is too crazy to listen to logic, so Buffy makes with the fighting. Stunt lunch lady is about a hundred pounds lighter than actress lunch lady. Oops. The day is saved!
Buffy and Willow come to school the next day, discussing how Buffy and Angel have had lots of good talks since the last time Buffy and Willow talked about Angel. Both girls are wearing super cute outfits.
They meet Giles in front of the school, and Willow leaves to give the yearbook people all those murderer profiles the Scoobies collected. Jonathan has been suspended and is in big trouble with his parents, but he’s going to be okay. Giles asks if she wants to do training. She does, but only if his schedule isn’t too full of sleeping with her mom. His reaction is seriously my favorite moment in the entire series.
I love “Earshot.” A stand-alone episode right after the season arc has majorly heated up shouldn’t be this awesome, but it totally is. Kind of like “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,” only in a less shallow way. One of the themes of “Earshot” is that everyone is too focused on their own stuff to pay much attention to anyone else. The villain was a lunch lady—one of the most overlooked categories of people in a high school. When Buffy is telling the Scoobies to check out everyone in the cafeteria, she only mentions teachers and students. The lunch ladies occurred to no one. Still in that theme, Jonathan was going to kill himself because he felt overlooked, not realizing that pretty much everyone feels that way. We tend to see the good things in other people’s lives and focus on the bad things in our own. We might be surrounded by people going through similar crap, but instead of feeling validated and supported by having shared problems, a whole crowd of people can be suffering alone, together. And Buffy herself is connected to the theme. She was feeling left out all through the first half. And telepathy, you’d think, would bring someone closer to other people, but it just drove everyone away from her and then her away from everyone. Buffy is so focused on her own angst in the first half that it doesn’t occur to her to actually connect with Angel to find out if anything’s really wrong. Willow, too, worries about things that divide her from her friends. Plots A and B are masterfully woven together here. Also, I love the resolution to the tiny Giles/Joyce subplot that’s been going on since “Band Candy.” Little continuity gems like that are part of what makes this show so good.
Buffy makes good progress in terms of how to communicate with her boyfriend when there are problems (although I don’t think she’ll get much of a chance to benefit from this progress). Also, it’s interesting to watch how someone as compassionate as Buffy reacts to hearing the pain of everyone around her. She cares, but there’s really nothing she can do about most of the problems she overhears. Which had to feel a bit depressing, on top of being loud and jarring in her head. Her instincts to save people at any cost to herself is so strong that she doesn’t even hesitate when she wakes up on the grass; she has to try to stop the killer. But she does trust her friends to handle it if she can’t be there. And she does such a wonderful job of handling Jonathan, even though she was wrong about what she was stopping him from doing.
Willow’s insecurities are interesting. She’s been telling Buffy to talk to Angel for multiple episodes now, but she feels like she doesn’t know Oz’s thoughts. Maybe she needs to take her own advice? I love seeing her take charge again. She seems to do that a lot when Buffy can’t be there to do it, and her leadership style is adorable.
Xander is pretty much just shallow in this one. All he does is think about sex and fret about Cordelia/Wesley. And even though someone’s about to try to murder everyone in school, he can’t rein in his attention span long enough to help investigate. Which makes it deeply ironic that he’s the one who finds the killer anyway (and that he’s the one who suggested the lunch lady as the possible killer in the first place, if only as a joke). How can he be so flippant about this? And why has he “idly thought about taking out the whole place with a semi-automatic”? That’s rather alarming. I mean, at most, I only ever idly thought about participating in the senior prank, but then I decided it was too much effort.
Giles is the one who keeps his calm best once he finds out about Buffy’s telepathy, and I love that. Giles is like Buffy’s rock. It’s wonderful. And he’s so anxious about the cure maybe not working. There’s one shot where he and Joyce are framed together in Buffy’s bedroom doorway while Buffy is lying in bed, tormented by the worsening telepathy. Out of context, you’d assume he’s her father.
Oz is a closet philosopher! So funny. We don’t often get evidence that he’s as smart as Willow, because he almost never applies himself to anything but music. This was a great little window into the heavy-duty stuff going on in his head. I kind of wish we’d got some of his thoughts on Willow, though. I bet they’d be super cute.
Cordelia is pretty much what you’d expect. She thinks it, she says it. She is brutally honest and unconcerned with being polite or tactful.
Angel is so great. He helps Buffy feel better about her predicament, he tells her just the right things to stop her feeling inadequate because of Faith, and he saves the day by killing the second demon and bringing her the cure. Yes, he is pretty much Buffy’s satellite in this episode, not having much of a storyline of his own, but I’m okay with that. I think one of my favorite things about him in this one is how unnervingly perceptive he is. It’s not necessarily obvious that Buffy can read minds based on what she says and how she acts when she comes to see him, but he guesses right anyway. It’s almost like he can read minds himself, but he’s just extremely observant. Even when he’s all tousled and sleepy-looking.
“The school paper is edging on depressing lately. Have you guys noticed that?”
“I don’t know; I always go straight to the obits.”
“It was intense.”
“Yeah, for a minute there, I thought you were gonna make an expression.”
“Well I felt one coming on, I won’t lie.
I am my thoughts. If they exist in her, Buffy contains everything that is me and she becomes me. I cease to exist. “Huh.”
“Dingoes Ate My Baby play their instruments as if they had plump Polish sausages taped to their fingers.”
“No, it’s fair.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.