Written by Marti Noxon
Directed by David Grossman
Roommate Kathy is listening to “Believe” by Cher. 1999 was apparently before the invention of the single-track repeat button, but that’s not enough to stop her! Whenever the song ends, she simply pauses in the ironing of her jeans to press play again. Buffy leaves to go patrolling, but pretends she’s going for coffee. Kathy does the perky passive-aggressive thing some more. Like, three times. Buffy’s fake smile is getting progressively faker.
Buffy and Willow are strolling on campus. Buffy thinks she hears a monster. She’d like a monster to fight. It would help her unleash all the tension from dealing with Kathy all day. They arrive at Willow’s destination (Oz’s place), and she leaves Buffy to continue patrol by herself. A monster with pocked orange skin and glowy eyes is lurking nearby in the bushes.
Buffy hears more possible monster noises, but it’s only Kathy, who decided that coffee sounded like fun. Then Buffy hears an actual monster, and she shoves Kathy off the path so that she can fight it without being seen. The monster runs away in time for Kathy to reemerge from the bushes. Her arm is hurt and her sweater is covered in dirt, but she buys Buffy’s story about there being a mugger. The demon and one of its friends watch them from the bushes. Whoops. Looks like one of the glowy contact lenses on Demon #2 slid around to the wrong part of his eye, because only his right eye is glowing.
Buffy comes to visit Giles, who has been out jogging. Buffy teases him until he stops being amused. She tells him about the demon. And about Kathy tagging along for patrolling/coffee. He’ll do some research to find out more about the demon. Buffy asks him about his day, and he starts telling her until he realizes that Buffy never asks about his day, and now he’s suspicious. She tries to deny it, but eventually admits that she’s skulking away from her dorm until Kathy’s classes start. He advises her to try to get used to living with other people and their quirks. She vows to make a fresh effort.
Back at the dorm room, Kathy is failing to scrub the dirt out of her sweater and being generally OCD about the room. Then she decides to borrow one of Buffy’s sweaters instead. What is the point of a bolt lock on a closet door? Anyone could undo that. Is it just there so you can more easily lock someone in your closet? Kathy notices Buffy’s big bag o’ weapons, decides she has the weirdest roommate ever, and leaves with the sweater.
In the cafeteria, Buffy spots Kathy at the end of the line and immediately ducks into line far enough away not to be noticed. A cute boy with pretty eyes teases her about it. He’s an upperclassman, and he gives her advice on how to abuse her meal card. And the cashier must really not care about what the students are doing, because she was definitely within earshot for some of that conversation. Willow waves her over to the table with her, Oz, and Xander, but she wants a little longer to keep chatting with the cutie. He introduces himself as Parker Abrams.
Xander is there mostly because eating at home is more expensive than bumming off his friends lately. Willow wants to know about the cutie from the food line. Xander and Oz think it was just a one-time encounter, but Willow suspects otherwise.
Kathy arrives! Buffy is the least happy to see her of the group, especially because she’s wearing her sweater. Buffy is quietly seething, trying not to be the first one to become openly hostile, but when Kathy drips ketchup on her sweater, there’s murder in her eyes.
That night, she’s complaining to Willow on the phone about Kathy. Willow is doing her best to be sympathetic while her own roommate throws a rave in their dorm. Kathy comes back in and flosses her teeth while sitting on her bed (ew, what?), then sneakily closes the window while Buffy goes to put her apple in the fridge…where every single thing Kathy owns is labeled with her name, down to the individual eggs. Buffy pointedly opens the window again. Kathy picks up her book, but a wad of gum is stuck to it. Buffy swallows the gum she’s currently chewing and tries to look innocent. (Okay, this is actually the first time it’s occurred to me that Buffy put that gum there on purpose. Clever, if…gross.)
That night, Buffy has a super disturbing dream about one of the glowy-eyed demons doing a ritual on her and sucking some kind of white light out of her. *gasps* It’s a DEMENTOR. When she wakes up, Kathy complains about her snoring. Pot, kettle, Kath!
The next morning, she’s telling Giles, Willow, and Oz about it. She’s more annoyed about Kathy’s reaction in the morning than she is upset and worried about the freaky dream itself. I guess, being the Slayer, she’s had so many freaky dreams that they don’t phase her much anymore, but this obnoxious roommate thing is new. And there Kathy is again! Buffy grudgingly introduces her to Giles, and she mentions that she had the same dream Buffy had. Buffy and Kathy start being passive-aggressive at each other again, minus a bit of the passive, and Kathy heads to class. Buffy is still so annoyed about Kathy that she hasn’t realized the significance of her and Kathy sharing a dream. Buffy leaves the other Scoobies to do the research stuff while she goes to class. They’re all slightly worried about how intense Buffy’s getting about Kathy.
That night, the two demons discuss summoning their leader because they’ve found the “she” they’re looking for. Uh oh.
When Buffy returns to her dorm, she finds Kathy chatting with Parker while listening, yet again, to “Believe.” He stopped by to bring her a box of ziplocks so she can more easily steal from the cafeteria. Kathy and Parker have been geeking out about hockey. Buffy doesn’t appreciate the way Kathy is acting like she has dibs on Parker, and she’s a little blunt. Parker starts to leave, and she hastily repairs the damage. Then she rounds on Kathy. They’re being way more aggressive than passive now. Kathy closes the window. Buffy puts a padlock on her closet. Buffy opens the window. Kathy complains, but Buffy doesn’t back down. Then Kathy lectures her about how she can’t act all spoiled now that she’s sharing her space with someone else. So Buffy grabs Kathy’s milk out of the fridge and drinks it straight out of the carton until it starts spilling out on both sides of her mouth, keeping eye-contact with Kathy the entire time.
Willow and Oz discuss Buffy’s situation. Oz volunteers to do the girly best friend thing with Buffy while Willow works on her English paper. Aww, good boyfriend Oz. Willow opens her door, hears the latest rave going on inside, and leaves for the library instead. Oz goes to find Buffy. On the way, he passes a group of people that includes a girl in a black leather duster. He looks around like he noticed something strange, and so does the girl. They keep walking away from each other. I do not like this. Off in the woods, the same military guys from the end of “The Freshman” are sneaking around again.
Buffy and Oz are now walking together, and Buffy’s complaining about Kathy some more. Buffy is suspicious, though, because their only scene alone together was when he found her after she transformed back into a human in “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered.” Oz is Willow’s boyfriend to Buffy, not Buffy’s friend. But she’s not opposed to hanging with him. He points out that her anti-Kathy rants may be scaring away demons. Buffy gets even angrier at that thought, and she kicks through a bench.
Back in the dorm, Kathy is now clipping her toenails while sitting on her bed. Ew! No! You clip your toenails directly into a trashcan. Few things are creepier than getting stabbed by toenail clippings when you’re walking on carpet. Isn’t Kathy supposed to be OCD? What is she doing?! Buffy taps her pencil in an annoying fashion to get revenge, but Kathy trumps that by turning on “Believe” again. Buffy’s pencil snaps, and she puts on headphones. Then Kathy starts crunching the shell of one of her KATHY hardboiled eggs. Buffy has finally had enough, and she goes to bed.
Nightmare time! Buffy and Kathy both wake up at the same time, very disturbed. Willow talks to Kathy in the hallway. Kathy has some fairly valid complaints against Buffy, without even considering the stuff Buffy’s deliberately doing to irritate her. Buffy notices them talking, and she reacts with an expression of possessive anger. Kathy leaves, and Willow tries to get Buffy to calm down. Buffy agrees. She’s realized what she needs to do. Kathy is evil, so she, as the Slayer, is going to have to kill her. Willow is very alarmed. Buffy shows her the toenail clippings, which she for some reason measured multiple times, and they have grown since being cut. Okay, yeah, that’s a weird thing for the toenails to do, but why on earth would she think measuring toenails is necessary? Willow tells Buffy to go see Giles, and then she calls Giles to warn him about her growing insanity.
When Buffy gets to Giles’s apartment, a net falls on her, and Giles, Xander, and Oz all gang up on her and tie her up. They think she’s insane, so they’re not inclined to believe her that Kathy’s evil. They think Kathy might be possessed by whatever’s making Buffy crazy, though, and Giles leaves to get supplies from the magic shop.
Willow goes to Buffy’s dorm to talk to Kathy. She tries to convince Kathy to stay out of Buffy’s way for the next little while. Kathy is indignant. Buffy’s the crazy one, so why should she have to be the one who leaves? She gets so intense about it that Willow actually jumps when the phone rings. Hahaha. It’s Oz, telling her that Buffy is safely captured. Willow leaves.
Buffy is struggling against the ropes binding her. Oz thinks they need to tighten them. But it’s a trick! She already got free and is just pretending to still be tied up so that they’ll get close enough for her to knock their heads together. She marches back to the dorm. She and Kathy square off. Buffy kicks the rug so it flops over (one of the things Kathy hates), and then Kathy smacks her. They grab each other, and Buffy pulls off Kathy’s human mask, revealing one of the glowy-eyed demons underneath! Holy crap Buffy was actually right.
The demons in the forest succeed in summoning their leader. In the dorm, Kathy tries to incapacitate Buffy so that she can finish her ritual, which involves stealing Buffy’s soul in order to disguise herself as a human so that the demons chasing her will take Buffy away instead. Rude! They keep fighting, and the fight is more about the things they’ve done to annoy each other than the fact that Kathy has been stealing Buffy’s soul.
Willow gets to Giles’s apartment in time to find Xander and Oz just regaining consciousness. She tries to call Buffy, but Kathy is presently using the phone to bludgeon Buffy across the face, so the line’s busy. Giles returns, and they get started on a spell that will reverse the soul-sucking. Xander and Oz run to go help Buffy while Giles and Willow do the spell.
Buffy and Kathy are still fighting. Out in the hall, other students poke their heads out to complain about the noise. Giles and Willow finish the spell, and the white misty stuff goes out of Kathy and back into Buffy. Kathy is very confused; that was supposed to be the other way around. Then the big boss demon shows up. Looks like it’s Kathy’s dad! She feels like she should be able to do what she wants, but he doesn’t think she’s old enough yet. He makes a portal, Kathy falls through it, and he jumps in after her.
Willow is moving into Kathy’s spot in Buffy’s room! Yay! She puts up a Dingoes Ate My Baby poster on the wall, and she’s playing their album. Buffy is happy that the soul-sucking was the reason behind her becoming a monster of a roommate. Then Willow bites into a sandwich that belonged to Buffy, and she does the same glare thing from before. Hahaha.
“Living Conditions” is a fantastic episode, especially for anyone who has lived in a dorm and/or had roommates. It’s up there with “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” as one of my favorite funnier stand-alones. I’ve never had a roommate who got on my nerves like Kathy, but it’s still hilarious to watch. Plot A is the looming threat of demons, Plot B is roommate problems, and as usual, the two overlap brilliantly. What really makes it work is the way Buffy continues to focus on how Kathy is a Plot B Bad Roommate even after she finds out that she’s a Plot A monster-of-the-week. I also love how Kathy’s behavior doesn’t change at all when we find out what she really is. The obsessive-compulsive micromanaging stuff isn’t an act. So much fun. And the episode isn’t 100% stand-alone. We meet Parker Abrams (unfortunately), catch our first glimpse of Veruca (UNFORTUNATELY), and see the soldier guys running around again. Three separate plotlines are made stronger by their inclusion in this episode.
Is it harder for an only child to be a roommate than it is for someone with siblings? Maybe that’s why I’ve never been bothered to the point of craziness about my roommates’ annoying habits. I grew up with brothers, so I’m used to dealing with people who have annoying habits. And I think all of my roommates have had siblings too, so they were inoculated against my annoying habits (haha, just kidding, I have no annoying habits). Buffy, as an only child (unless she were to retroactively become a big sister to a fourteen-year-old somehow), is less accustomed to dealing with another person full-time, let alone sharing her room. This is made doubly hard by the fact that she has a gigantic secret she has to protect. So she may not be super overwhelmed by college anymore, but her roommate skills still need work. They don’t actually get much work, though, because Kathy turns out to be a demon. Hopefully she’ll be able to ease into it a little better with Willow. The soul-sucking ritual raises some weird questions. How is it possible for a soul to be sucked in pieces? I would’ve thought it was an all-or-nothing sort of thing, but it is interesting to see Buffy’s behavior on a sliding scale of soullessness. She’s perfectly capable of being petty and cranky with her soul fully intact, but the efforts to get along and force a smile vanish once the soul starts getting sucked away.
While Willow, Oz, and Buffy have all moved on to college, Xander is in a rut. He’s living in his parents’ basement, doesn’t appear to have any career prospects, and is pathetically eager to assist in any Plot A scenarios. He needs to get his own Plot B moving again soon, or he’s going to be miserable.
Willow handles her bad roommate situation much more how I would. Avoid! Then switch to rooming with your friend as soon as possible. I’m so glad I’ve never had a party animal roommate. For being Buffy’s best friend, she seems a little slow to assume that something is wrong with her in a Plot A sense, but she’s also clearly given herself a hefty coarse load and isn’t able to get much sleep with that insane roommate, so maybe I shouldn’t be too critical.
Oz is more involved in this episode than he’s been in most of his episodes. I wish there were more scenes of him hanging out with Buffy. They make an interesting pair. I’m sure they could become pretty good friends as Buffy and Oz, not Willow’s best friend and Willow’s boyfriend. But then there’s Veruca. Badness is on its way. *grits all her feels in preparation*
Giles comes to campus! He’s making good on his resolution not to leave Buffy to fend for herself in all Plot A matters. I really like that she can talk to him about her Plot B problems too, and he offers good advice.
“He had a cloak on, glowy green eyes, and his skin had that, like, super bad fake rub-on tan.”
“I’m not saying we’ll braid each other’s hair, probably.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.