Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by Michael Lang
Some dude is walking through the forest at night, and then Buffy comes up behind him. Turns out he’s a vampire. She fights him and stakes him. Then she seems to sense something, because she looks around, confused. She doesn’t find whatever it is, so she leaves. What she was sensing was Angel! Yay, crossover fun time.
It’s time to break the ground for a new campus construction project. They’re building a new cultural center, and the anthropology department is very excited about it. Buffy (wearing a black cowboy hat why?), Willow, and Anya are standing together at the edge of the construction site. Anya is taking advantage of their position to ogle Xander, whose job-du-jour is being a construction worker. Anya doesn’t really have a filter on her sex thoughts. She just voices all of them. And Willow is in a huff about Thanksgiving being a farce of a holiday that’s really about the eradication and oppression of indigenous peoples. Apparently this is an attitude she inherited from her mom. Buffy just likes it because of the family coziness and the food. Except that Joyce went to Illinois to spend the holiday with her sister, and she didn’t take Buffy along. Rude. Anya likes Thanksgiving, but the way she describes it as a “ritual sacrifice with pie” makes the other two uncomfortable. (Point of order: for an animal to qualify as a sacrifice, you can’t actually eat it afterwards. It wouldn’t be much of a sacrifice if you still got to use it the same way you use your other animals.)
Xander gets about five seconds into digging in a patch of dirt that’s just slightly a different color than the surrounding dirt when he falls through into an old building. Likely one that got buried in that earthquake that took down the Master in that church.
That night, Angel is still lurking about, now outside Buffy’s dorm building. In the dorm, Buffy is looking out the window, frowning, because her Angel sense is tingling. And not that Buffy’s paying attention, but Willow is expositing on the building Xander painfully discovered, which is the old Sunnydale Mission. And it did get buried by an earthquake, just not the same one that got the Master. This one happened in 1812, and they accidentally built the university on top of it.
Buffy decides that she’s gonna do her own Thanksgiving, even if her mom’s out of town. Willow is indignant that Buffy would sell out for such an exploitative holiday. Buffy thinks the food and the companionship are more important than the unfortunate historical context. Willow grudgingly concedes the point, but she’d rather not invite Anya.
Spike is having the most absurd pity-party for himself. He’s staggering around, clutching a blanket around him that looks like it’s seen the wrong end of a German shepherd’s teeth and claws. Unless Sunnydale is about to have another freak snowstorm, I’m going to assume that the weather is still way too warm to merit sad frozen orphan chic, since the girls were all dressed for warm weather earlier that day. And even if it was cold, he’s a vampire! What the hell does he care how cold it is outside? He goes around in that leather duster all the time, even in the summer. So I am forced to conclude that he’s being melodramatic.
One thing he’s not being melodramatic about is that he’s being followed. Riley, Graham, and Forrest still have orders to track him down.
Xander is getting ready for work, only he’s looking fairly ill. Anya shows up and decides that he’s too sick to work. He doesn’t put up much of a fight against that idea. She also thinks it would be romantic if she caught what he has and they died together. He thinks she’s weird, but he also thinks she’s his girlfriend, and she likes that very much.
It appears that his illness may not be natural. A green misty thing rises up from the Sunnydale Mission, accompanied by vaguely tribal-sounding music. Ah. So. Culturally awkward “Indian Burial Ground” story? The head anthropology lady is on the phone about how despite how amazing the discovery of the mission is, it does mean they’ll have to find another location for their new cultural center. She fails to notice the green mist swirling up to her. It coalesces into a Native American dude, who grabs a knife out of the display case and slits her throat with it.
Buffy and Willow come poking around the crime scene. Willow thinks it might be a witch or a demon or suicide. Yeah, probably none of those things. Buffy notices the display that’s missing its knife.
Buffy and Giles are unpacking Thanksgiving dinner groceries at his apartment, which is where the dinner will be. He suspects skullduggery, but she insists that it has to be at his place because he’s the patriarch. I agree with Buffy. He agrees to research the Chumash people to see if their traditions match up with the circumstances surrounding the murder. Then Buffy pauses, like she just noticed something, but she leaves. The thing she noticed was Angel! Who emerges from another room. Giles is a little miffed at Angel hovering about with vague warnings about something that might be a threat to Buffy, but Angel points out that it’s not Giles’s job to protect her anymore either. They’re both still determined to do it. Giles at least doesn’t want to hide Angel’s presence from her, but Angel thinks he’d be too much of a distraction if she knew. They talk about the problem some more and toss around ideas for leads to pursue. Then Angel heads out to go keep an eye on Buffy some more. Giles doesn’t approve, but Angel’s not doing it because he enjoys it.
Spike looks in at a vampire nest, looking wistful and pathetic—and ridiculous, ‘cause of that stupid blanket.
Buffy and Willow are finishing up their Thanksgiving shopping. Willow’s patience is about to give out because Buffy’s being so particular about everything. Riley comes up to them, having tailed them for a couple of blocks because he wants to talk to Buffy and is being a dork about it. Willow, with zero attempt at subtlety, heads into the coffee shop so they can talk alone, and Angel grabs her once she’s inside. She assumes he must be evil, but he’s not. Then she goes on a rant about the “leaving for her own good” thing that he and Oz both did, which she is not a fan of. Angel wants to get back to business, but he’s somewhat distracted by the sight of Buffy chatting with Riley.
He really doesn’t need to worry just now. Their conversation is pleasant, but more awkward than flirty. She invites him to Thanksgiving dinner, but he’s already heading back to Iowa for that.
Spike is now desperate enough to go to Harmony, who isn’t happy to see him but only resists his dubious charms for about thirty seconds. It seems like it’s going to be round three on this horrible relationship merry-go-round, but then she shows fresh determination. With a stake. He falls over in his haste to get away. He begs her for some food (read: blood still in its tasty human packaging), and she chases him out. Go Harmony! Except I don’t care.
Buffy goes to talk to a Father Gabriel (the guy Angel told Giles to ask for information). Problem is, Chumash warrior ghost guy got there first. He’s in the process of adding an ear to his collection (he took the anthropology lady’s ear after killing her too). It’s all very stereotypical, and Buffy’s very bemused. She’s about to kill him, but then he white-guilts her until she lets him go, and then he turns into a bunch of ravens and flies away.
She reports back to Giles about it. She’s annoyed at herself for stopping before killing the vengeance spirit guy, but she’s still not sure she wants to use lethal force. Giles argues that the fact that the vengeance spirit is killing innocent people should be reason enough for him to fall under Slayer jurisdiction. Also, Giles is basically useless because he doesn’t even have a ricer. Ugh. How dare he? (What is a ricer?)
Willow arrives with books about the Chumash and the mission, and also frozen peas. Willow has restocked her indignation reserves with a pile of knowledge about European atrocities against the Chumash. The vengeance spirit is now recreating those atrocities against Sunnydale’s white population. Willow thinks they should give him what he wants instead of killing him, but there’s not really a way to do that that won’t require purchasing government lands and giving it back to the Chumash. Willow and Giles argue about this while Buffy stands in the middle, fretting about dinner preparations. Once she flees to the kitchen, they whisper together about Angel being in town.
Xander and Anya arrive, and Xander is worse than before. Also they failed to bring rolls. It seems Xander’s fun new diseases are part of the vengeance. Fortunately, these aren’t naturally-caused diseases, so when they solve the problem, he’ll probably be fine. It’s just that they still aren’t sure how fierce they want to be with their problem-solving tactics. Xander doesn’t feel like being accommodating with the thing that just gave him a bunch of diseases because he happened to be the first person to stumble into the old mission. Anya is offended by Xander’s hard line against vengeance entities. More arguments break out, until Buffy bursts out about cooking stuff.
Vengeance spirit guy is stealing more weapons from the cultural display thingy, and now he’s summoning a gang of allies! Great!
Someone knocks on the door at Giles’s place, which is odd, because the whole gang is there. It’s Spike! Who is using the blanket to hide from the sun. He wants sanctuary. Buffy and Giles find that hilarious. He tries to get in, but bounces off the invisible barrier. He asks Willow to vouch for his new neutered state. She’s more focused on his long-established desire to kill Buffy and any of her friends he runs into. In the end, his offer to give them information about the Initiative (which they have thus far failed to obtain) is enough to earn him an invite.
But not hospitality. They tie him nice and tight to a chair. Giles thinks vengeance guy’s next target might be the dean of the university, since he’s mostly going after authority figures. Buffy isn’t going to let that happen, but she’d also like to not have to oppress anyone indigenous. Willow refuses to help. Spike is already tired of this topic. He tells them to get over it. Giles seems to think he has a point. And Xander. I sort of do too. Willow, Anya, and Xander leave to go warn the dean.
Spike is still whining about how hungry he is. Buffy and Giles don’t care. And even less so now, because vengeance guy and all his friends are attacking Giles’s apartment. Spike quickly becomes an arrow pincushion, which is hilarious.
Angel intercepts Willow, Anya, and Xander, and why is Anya talking like she hasn’t met Angel? Is it just because nobody identified him by name the times they were in scenes together in S3? Angel takes offense when Xander assumes he’s evil again. Angel figures out what none of them did: warrior spirits will see the strongest fighter as a leader, which means Buffy is in far more danger than the dean. He helps them steal some bicycles so they can charge back to Giles’s place.
Giles gets Angel’s warning phone call, which is fairly redundant at this point. Buffy takes an arrow to the arm when she tries to grab weapons. The rest of the Scoobies arrive and start fighting the spirits. They don’t respond to killing blows the way they should. Buffy fights the leader inside. Angel joins the fight in time to save Buffy from an attack she didn’t see coming from behind. They’re all in serious trouble, but then Buffy figures out that using their weapons against them is the only thing that works. That might be tricky though, because the leader just turned into a bear. Xander distracts him by hurling rolls at him, and Buffy stabs him. All the spirits vanish, and so do Xander’s diseases. Having succeeded in his mission of keeping Buffy safe, Angel leaves. Buffy looks in his direction, but a second too late to actually see him.
It’s dinner time! The food is lovely. Willow is upset that she ended up fighting after all her talk about cultural sensitivity. Then Xander lets slip that Angel was there. Yay, that means the crossover will continue!
Even though the writers’ decision to make a Thanksgiving episode in which the monster-of-the-week is the spirit of an oppressed native culture is questionable at best, “Pangs” is a pretty fun episode. The witty dialogue is on point and Buffy’s manic determination to make Thanksgiving dinner happen at all costs is great. I’ve never had a Thanksgiving dinner in which my family got into a bunch of fights, but that’s clearly what’s going on with everyone arguing while Buffy valiantly struggles to make dinner happen. The gang’s attitude towards Spike is pretty hilarious, as is watching him whine while he gets shot with a bunch of arrows. It’s also nice to see Anya again. They probably could have come up with a better threat to justify a crossover, though. Now that Angel has his own show, it feels like if he and Buffy are going to team up again, it needs to be for something bigger than what either of them could handle alone. Instead, it seems like the only reason he’s there is to stop her from getting attacked from behind. Even if that attack would’ve been fatal, it still feels kinda lame. (But the other half of this crossover will more than make up for it.)
Buffy has never shown an interest in or aptitude for cooking before, but I don’t care. Her obsession with Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t strike me as out-of-character. She established in “Helpless” that she’s a girl who puts great stock in traditions. She was deeply hurt when her dad failed to uphold her birthday tradition of going to the ice show. So it’s not a surprise that she would move heaven and earth to get the kind of Thanksgiving dinner she’s used to. The way she reacts to everyone arguing is also interesting. Buffy has never been a fan of contention. She avoids it when she can, and she has broken up arguments between her friends in the past. This is one of the rare times that their arguments have nothing to do with her, personally, but she’s still very uncomfortable with their fighting.
I’ve never really had much of an opinion about Xander/Anya, but I think I like it this time around. I’m not sure I understand why Anya latched onto him in particular, but her strange ways mix well with his personality. He does his first construction job in this one, and from how badly it goes, I’m kind of surprised he would ever want to do another one. I appreciate his attitude about the vengeance spirit. It doesn’t make sense to be wishy-washy about it when people have been killed and a member of the Scooby gang itself is dying of a myriad of nasty diseases. Also, I find it really sweet that he would feel like Angel helping out made this particular supernatural encounter feel like old times. Even though he’s never liked Angel, he at least sees him as a natural part of their monster-fighting formula.
Based on the way Willow starts ranting to Angel about a guy leaving for the girl’s own good, I think a lot of her Thanksgiving angst is actually Oz angst channeled into something else. It leads her to some pretty irrational conclusions. The Scoobies’ position is typically “if it’s not human and it’s killing humans, we kill it before it can kill more humans.” This is quite a good position, and she’s making it unnecessarily complicated by sympathizing with the murderous thing’s tragic backstory instead of focusing on its current inexcusable actions.
I wonder why Spike assumed that he couldn’t beat up demons just because he couldn’t beat up humans. You’d think that would’ve been something he’d try before he sank to the level of melodramatic absurdity with that shredded blanket. Or maybe he’s just so afraid of looking like a weakling in front of other demons that he didn’t want to risk it. I suppose that makes sense.
I love Giles’s scene with Angel so much. It’s the first time in a long time that the two of them have been able to work together in a civil way since before Angel lost his soul. I’m always excited to see the two men who love Buffy the most teaming up and sort of getting along. They both want what’s best for Buffy enough to overcome their issues with each other. I also love how in sync Giles is with Buffy, particularly when Spike shows up. She holds out her hand and he drops a stake into it. They didn’t need to say anything; they just understood each other perfectly.
I don’t care if Angel’s not in the credits anymore; he’s a main enough character to have his own show, so I’m gonna analyze him if I feel like it. He’s in a crappy situation. Once again, he’s been sent by a higher power to protect Buffy, but now there’s a ton of emotional baggage between them. His and Buffy’s connection hasn’t weakened in the six months they’ve been apart, as evidenced by the four times she seems to sense his presence without realizing it. Not revealing himself to Buffy while he’s in town honestly seems like the best in a selection of crappy options. If he did show himself, it would bring up a lot of old feelings for her and probably make it harder for her to move on. Maybe he’s being a little too protective of her feelings, but I don’t think he’s doing it for selfish reasons.
“That’s a nasty cough. You might have to spend the weekend in quarantine.”
“Oh no. I’m done coughing.”
“We don’t say ‘Indian’.”
“Right, yes. Always behind on the terms. Still trying not to refer to you lot as ‘bloody colonials’.”
“That’s why I think we should keep a level head in this.”
“And I happen to think that mine is the level head and yours is the one things would roll off of!”
“Let’s give him some land! I’m sure that’ll clear everything right up.”
“Sarcasm accomplishes nothing, Giles.”
“It’s sort of an end in itself.”
“I made a lot of these points earlier, but no. It’s fine. Nobody listens to me.”
“So this is Angel. He’s large and glowery, isn’t he?”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.