Written by Tracey Forbes
Directed by David Solomon
It’s nighttime at the cemetery, and Buffy is fighting vampires to music with a serious beat. Parker is there! Ew, go away. The music keeps getting more intense as more vampires show up, and Parker is now in danger. Buffy stakes the vampires and saves Parker. The music turns all romantic as he apologizes and thanks her for saving his life and promises to do right by her. Then Buffy snaps out of her daydream as she notices another girl laughing at something Parker says. They seem pretty intimate.
Professor Walsh is giving a lesson on the Freudian Split. *face palm* Nice try, writers, but Psychology professors do not teach Freud. As I’ve mentioned before, he has been thoroughly discredited, and his only value lies in literary analysis. She should be getting this lesson in an English class, not Psychology. But anyway. Now we know the episode is going to have something to do with the id, or what Buffy wants. Parker is currently one of those things, or at least, she wants him to want her. As the lecture continues, she slides back into her fantasy world, which is now even more ridiculous. Grateful Parker wields a bouquet of flowers and a quart of ice cream, and his shirt is open. *snort*
Buffy and Willow are studying outside, and Xander comes up to them to demonstrate his new bar tending skills. I really like Willow’s shirt.
Buffy and Willow are skeptical that underage Xander should be a bartender. Also, Buffy is still fretting about Parker. Willow is still very not on board with Buffy/Parker and is trying to get through to Buffy.
Much as Buffy and Willow predicted, Xander’s bartending does not go well. Why didn’t he start out as a bar-back? Buffy goes to this bar and she sees Parker there with a date who is not her. She bonks into Riley and knocks his drink all over him. She mentions Parker, and Riley expresses his disapproval of Parker’s dating patterns, then leaves. Buffy sees Parker and the not-her girl kissing, and she is very sad. Meanwhile, Xander has one positive interaction as a bartender, and then a smug intellectual elitist douchebag comes along and ruins it.
Xander sees sad Buffy and gives her his empathy face. She’s finally realized that Parker’s only intimacy problem is that he’s a player. Her current fantasy is of tying him up and leaving him in a cave frequented by vampires. This is a far superior fantasy, but sadly, we don’t actually get a cinematic representation of it like the other ones. Xander’s boss interrupts him before he can give Buffy a pep talk, and she bonks into another beer-holding dude. He’s friends with the smug intellectual elitist douchebag, and Buffy feels flattered by their attention for some reason. She accepts a beer from them as she sees Parker leave with his date.
Willow and Oz are at the Bronze, and then Oz zones out. The lead singer of the band playing is that girl who caught Oz’s attention for a few seconds in “Living Conditions.” Now, he seems mesmerized, and Willow notices and is not happy. The girl’s name is Veruca, and her singing style is extremely breathy and sensual. This is not good.
Buffy is drinking with the group of douchebags now. They’re getting drunk enough now to lose control of their pretentious vocabularies.
Willow is walking into the dorm room, irritably repeating Oz and Veruca’s conversation from later on the previous evening. Apparently Veruca was a bit dismissive of Willow, and she and Oz got along really well, since they’re both musicians. She tries to get some sympathy from Buffy, but Buffy is too busy being hungover and watching TV. Buffy doesn’t explain it very well, leading Willow to believe that she slept with the four douchebags. Buffy snorts and corrects that impression. She only got drunk. Buffy gets up to go to class still wearing her pajamas. Willow puts a stop to that.
In class, Buffy is still being remarkably ditsy and spaced-out. She steals a sandwich from the girl in front of her and acts like that’s a perfectly normal thing to do.
Somewhere, a very complicated chemistry setup is dripping some kind of sinister concoction into the keg of the brand of beer Buffy and the douchebags were drinking. Uh oh. That evening, she and the guys are back and drinking more of that beer, and they’re getting dumber and extremely inarticulate. Xander watches in amazed horror.
Oz catches up with Willow when she’s on her way out of her dorm. He wants her to come to the Bronze to watch Veruca’s band play while he plays guitar for them. She declines. It’s awkward, and Oz doesn’t seem to realize how much he’s hurting Willow. It’s like he can’t quite control whatever’s happening between him and Veruca.
Buffy and the drunk douchebags are still at the bar. Xander turns on the jukebox, and Buffy comes over and laughs and climbs on it. Xander manages with some difficulty to send her home.
Willow goes to the campus’s basement coffee shop and finds Parker there. She confronts him sternly. She chews him out for hurting Buffy so much. He doesn’t feel guilty at all. She sits down, and he gives her his speech about how brief intimate encounters are just as valid as long-term relationships. He feels like having to put a “just so you know, this is a one-night stand” disclaimer on everything would ruin it, because he’s a poophead. He switches to complimenting Willow on her loyalty as a friend, and she seems slightly mollified.
The douchebags are making a huge mess and not even speaking anymore. Xander takes advantage of this to get a gigantic tip from them. One of them comes out of the bathroom, having transformed into a caveman! Wow. He knocks Xander out, then roars. The other three are terrified, but they transform too, seemingly in response to his yells. Xander comes to and wards them off with his lighter.
He runs into the back of the bar to tell his boss what just happened, but his boss doesn’t seem all that perturbed. In fact, his attitude is more along the lines of “serve them right.” Uh. Well. He goes on a rant about how college students have always treated him like crap and acted all high and mighty, so he decided to get some petty revenge. Xander is horrified.
The cave douchebags run around campus, wreaking minor havoc. One of them gets hit by a car, and the others hit the car with sticks until they notice a pair of girls and chase them instead.
Xander has gone to Giles for help. Giles is annoyed that Xander served Buffy beer at all, cursed or otherwise. (I think that line might have been part of why a lot of people don’t like this episode, but come on! Buffy’s underage!) They find Buffy drawing cave paintings on her wall. Also she now has scraggly white girl dreads, but that’s the extent of her physical transformation. She’s feeling very anti-Parker.
Parker and Willow have moved to comfier seats, and she seems much less hostile towards him than she was initially. Wait…crap. No. Now he’s talking about how he hasn’t ever found “the one.” He reaches for her hand and tells her that he’s enjoyed talking to her. She thanks him, and then asks him if he thinks she’s an idiot. He slowly withdraws his hand. YEAH! Go Willow! She makes a caveman analogy just in time for the cave douchebags to burst in, carrying a couple of girls over their shoulders. They knock Willow and Parker out with their sticks.
Xander and Giles watch Cave Buffy in fascination as she plays spin the chair and complains about her TV not working. She likes how Xander smells, and when they mention beer, she perks up. Giles tells her she can’t have beer, and she turns a stony cave Buffy expression on him. She beats her chest, then shoves them both aside and runs out. They split up and try to find her.
In the coffee shop, the cave men have started a fire with broken furniture. Oh dear. This isn’t going to go well. It quickly burns out of control, and their mood goes from triumphant to fearful.
Xander catches up to Buffy and tries to get through to her. They smell the fire, which Buffy remembers from “Graduation Day: Part 2” is bad. They head towards it to try to help. She breaks in, touches the fire with a finger, then grabs a fire extinguisher. Part of her seems to know this will help. But then she just throws it at the fire. So much for that. Then she sees Willow unconscious across the room, and this helps her focus a little. She parkours her way past the fire.
Xander goes inside, but he can’t see anyone through the smoke and retreats. Where’s Giles? Giles is still in the dorm building looking for Buffy and obviously having no luck, and it’s hilarious.
Buffy finds a window and breaks it open. The cave douchebags see it and use it to escape, and the two girls get out that way too. Then Buffy shoves Willow out through it. Xander helps everyone out the other side. Then Buffy sees Parker still inside. He asks for her help, and she responds by knocking him out with a stick. But then she still helps him get to safety anyway.
While the fire department takes care of the fire, Giles, Willow, and Xander keep an eye on cave Buffy. Xander wrangled all the cave douchebags into an unlocked van. They aren’t currently rowdy enough to smash the windows and escape. Parker walks up to Buffy to thank her for rescuing him. It’s a lot like her fantasy from the beginning of the episode. Romantic music and everything. He asks for her forgiveness. She knocks him out with the stick again. Willow is very smug.
“Beer Bad” is one of the series’ most infamously bad episodes, but I don’t care. I like it. It’s completely ridiculous and the metaphor is extremely heavy-handed (while somehow still managing to fumble its Very Special Message), but it’s hilarious enough to be very entertaining anyway. And Buffy finally gets over Parker! Hooray! If they were going to insist on her being mopey over him for several episodes, then I’m glad they decided to finally resolve all of that with something silly. Pretty much the only thing I think actually doesn’t work in this episode is Buffy’s willingness to hang out and drink with the intellectual elitist douchebags in the first place. She has never been the type to enjoy partying with random strangers, especially after how badly that went in “Reptile Boy” and “Dead Man’s Party.” So that particular aspect of the episode makes no sense at all. Still, I love the petty, bitter bartender. I love Willow chewing out Parker and not falling for his crap. I love Giles’s haplessness when dealing with cave Buffy and trying to find her. Less lovable is the subplot with Oz and Veruca, but that’s not an issue of quality, it’s just an issue of crushing impending heartbreak.
Buffy is still completely stuck in Parker’s orbit, and it makes her into a sad shadow of the Buffy we’re used to. I could understand if she were merely sad, but she’s also in denial about the kind of person Parker is, even though she’s being bombarded with evidence of his true nature pretty much nonstop. She even admits this. I don’t get it. At least she’s completely over him by the end of the episode.
I would question Xander’s ability to land a job that only people twenty-one and older are legally eligible for, but if his employer is willing to turn his patrons into cave men, then maybe it makes sense. I agree with Giles’s irritation that Xander served Buffy beer. Especially when she was hanging out with a bunch of jerks. Shouldn’t that have been the moment when Xander’s sometimes-unpleasant overprotectiveness kicked in? I would have welcomed it this time! Bah.
Willow is upset about Oz’s behavior, and instead of bringing her concerns to him, she vents them on Parker. As much as I love that Parker got chewed out for his crap, it would have been much more constructive if Willow had just talked to Oz, who clearly hasn’t noticed that he’s hurting Willow with his strange interest in Veruca.
Oz spends most of this episode in a Veruca-induced trance. He doesn’t seem nearly as aware of his actions and their effects on other people as usual, so it’s kind of hard to analyze him. It’s like he’s on autopilot, and it’s not good.
Giles is pretty much only in this episode to provide some (excellent) comic relief. I love how incapable he is of adjusting to cave Buffy.
“I don’t believe this is entirely on the up-and-up.”
“What gives it away?”
“Lookin’ at it.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.