Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered S2 E16 (Buffy and the Art of Story)

Buffy and the Art of Story Podcast CoverThis week on Buffy and the Art of Story: Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered (Season 2 Episode 16 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

This podcast episode covers (1) using humor to convey theme; (2) conflict that causes character growth (for Cordelia); (3) foreshadowing significant plot developments without giving anything away; and (4) intertwining many plotlines seamlessly.

As always, the discussion is spoiler-free, except at the end (with plenty of warning).

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About Lisa M. Lilly

In addition to hosting the podcast Buffy and the Art of Story, Lisa M. Lilly is the author of the bestselling four-book Awakening supernatural thriller series and the Q.C. Davis mysteries, as well as numerous short stories. She also writes non-fiction, including books on writing craft, under L.M. Lilly. She is the founder of WritingAsASecondCareer.com.

Episode Transcript for Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

Hello and welcome to Buffy and the Art of Story Season Two. If you love Buffy the Vampire Slayer and you love creating stories – or just taking them apart to see how they work – you’re in the right place.

I am Lisa M Lilly, author of the Awakening supernatural thriller series and the Q.C. Davis mysteries and founder of WritingAsASecondCareer.com

Today were talking about Season Two Episode Sixteen Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered.

What’s Included

In particular, we’ll cover:

  1. how this episode, which seems to be a very light one-off episode in fact, foreshadows so much of the rest of the season and the series as a whole;
  2. significant themes about love versus obsession and about being who you are;
  3. a central conflict that causes strong character growth for a side character (Cordelia); and
  4. the masterful way that numerous plot lines are woven together seamlessly.

As always, there will be no Spoilers except at the end to talk about foreshadowing, but I’ll give you plenty of warning.

Okay, let’s dive into the Hellmouth.

Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered was written by Marti Noxon and directed by James A. Contner.

Opening Conflict In Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

We start as we should with conflict. Xander and Buffy are in the graveyard. He shows her a silver heart necklace and asks if she thinks Cordelia will like it. Buffy doesn’t quite understand what he sees in Cordelia and gives him a bit of a hard time about it. He says the only other person who interests him is unavailable and gives her a look.

Buffy more or less ignores that and tries to reassure him that yes, Cordelia will like the necklace. And we get the first of some great Xander quotes in this episode.

Xander: This is new territory for me. I mean, my Valentines are usually met with heartfelt restraining orders.

He also says that he wishes dating were more like slaying, with everything clear, no fuss, no muss. A vampire emerges from the grave, goes after Xander. Buffy has to fight it off, and she slays it. Afterwards she tells Xander that slaying is a little more perilous than dating.

He says she’s obviously not dating Cordelia. And we go to the credits.

Internal v. External Conflict

This is an interesting opening conflict because we get internal conflict for Xander. I think more internal than external because while Buffy gives him a bit of a hard time about what he could possibly see in Cordelia, ultimately, she is very supportive and trying to reassure him. He, though, is expressing mixed feelings. While he wants Cordelia to like the necklace he is still making it clear that he’s interested in Buffy. And for the most part saying she would be his first choice. At least that’s how I read it.

Using ambiguous feelings could create weak conflict. But here it’s very strong in the sense that this ambiguity will drive the episode. In fact, it’s probably key to what goes wrong with the spell.

Cordelia’s Friends Turn On Her

Later on, after the credits, we see Cordelia struggling with her own conflict. That also will play into our main plot.

At 2 minutes 42 seconds in, Cordelia is walking up the steps to school. She’s calling after four girls, including her friend Harmony to wait for her. They finally turn around.

Cordelia says to Harmony, “Why didn’t you call me back last night?” and says they need to coordinate outfits for the dance. Cordelia then looks at another girl and says, “I’m wearing red and black, so you need to switch.”

The girl, though, responds by asking if red and black is what Xander wants her to wear. And Cordelia says, “What does he have to do with it?”

Harmony says, “Well, a girl wants to look good for her geek.” And then goes on to ask when Cordelia and Xander are going to start wearing cute little matching outfits because she’s going to vomit. She leads the other girls away.

Cordelia is alone, looking hurt.

Episode Theme: Who Is A Leader

This is the beginning of one of the underlying themes of this episode about popularity, who is a leader, and who is a follower.

Harmony is the one of the friends of Cordelia who has spoken the most. The only one who has a name or whose name I remember. But she has definitely been subservient to Cordelia, trying to get Cordelia’s approval. Now she is turning on Cordelia and becoming this leader herself. Or so it seems.

Bad Breakup?

At 3 minutes 29 seconds in, in class, the teacher tells the students they need to turn in their papers or get an F.

After the bell rings Amy asks Willow if she and Buffy are going to the Valentine’s dance. Willow looks really excited. Buffy tells her it’s okay she say it. And Willow says, “My boyfriend’s in the band!”

Amy smiles and says that’s cool and asks Buffy if she’s going. Buffy says something about Valentine’s Day is just a gimmick to sell chocolate.

Amy: Bad breakup?

Buffy: Believe me when I say Uh-huh.

Quick Exposition Through Conflict

As we see so often in Buffy, we got so much exposition through conflict in these three quick scenes here. There isn’t a huge amount of conflict, but there is some because Willow was so happy, and Buffy clearly feels bad about her breakup. And we get a little bit of humor, all of which gets across that something terrible happened to Buffy romantically. And that Willow has a new boyfriend she’s really excited about.

We also in the previous scene learned very quickly that Xander is not in Cordelia is social circle and that her friends looked down on her for it.

And in the Xander scene we learned quite a bit about his feelings about Cordelia and Buffy. And about his fears of rejection.

All these things as regular viewers we know. If we tuned in for the first time we might not understand everything about these characters. But we would have a pretty good idea what’s going on. Who they are, what the relationships are between them. And this is all in less than 4 minutes.

The Story Spark

We’re leading to our Story Spark or Inciting Incident that sets our main plot in motion.

At the end of the class each student is handling their paper one by one to the teacher. Amy, though, is empty-handed. But she gives the teacher this look, and the teacher thanks her and mimes taking a paper.

Xander sees this. It happens at 4 minutes 25 seconds in. That is often where we see the Story Spark – at 10% into an episode, novel, or a movie. These episodes are 42 to 44 minutes long so this is right at that 10%.

It will become clear until a little bit later why this is the Story Spark, but it does set our plot in motion. Because if Xander hadn’t seen Amy using her witchcraft, he couldn’t have gone to her about a love spell no matter how angry he felt at Cordelia.

Later in the hallway Xander tells Buffy and Willow what he saw. They all agree that Amy is the last person who should use witchcraft given what happened with her mother. So again, very quick exposition through a little bit of conflict in the sense that they are all concerned.

Tension With Jenny Calendar

Giles comes up and wants to talk to Buffy. At that moment Jenny emerges from her classroom.

She says, “Rupert,” but he says, “Miss Calendar.” As he did before they knew each other well and dated. She says she wants to talk to him if he has a minute. Buffy is looking down at the floor through this whole exchange. And Giles says he doesn’t have time right now, he needs to talk to Buffy about something. Buffy says, ”Let’s go.”

Jenny walks off and both Willow and Xander look sad for her.

In the library, Buffy asks if Giles is okay. He says he’ll be fine, though he doesn’t really look it, and that he’s more concerned about her.

Giles Warns About Angelus And Valentine’s Day

In unusually vague terms, Giles warns Buffy about what Angel might do to her because it’s Valentine’s Day. He says Angel is prone to what he probably thinks of as brutal displays of affection. And Giles suggest Buffy stay off the streets. He’ll patrol instead and he says better safe than sorry.

After long pause, Buffy says it’s a little late for both.

Notice how we have a number of conflicts and plot lines here. We have Xander’s feelings for Cordelia and fears of rejection. Also Cordelia’s conflict with wanting to remain popular and included in her friend group versus being with Xander. We had Amy using witchcraft despite that it had disastrous consequences for her mother.

And we have Angel posing an escalating threat to Buffy because it’s Valentine’s Day. And as sort of a side note to that, Buffy’s feelings about this awful breakup being heightened and emphasized because of Valentine’s Day.

All of these weave together so well throughout the episode and now we’re going to get one more. It’s not quite a subplot for the episode.

The Triangle

But it is a subplot for this half of the season. This dynamic and conflict between Spike and Angel and Drusilla. This triangle.

The scene switches to the factory. We close up on a jewelry box that opens to show a beautiful necklace inside. So, as often is the case, we see the sort of a dark relationships mirroring Buffy’s relationships and friendships.

Because Xander is giving this heart necklace to Cordelia, fearing rejection.

And here, Spike gives this beautiful necklace to Drusilla. She loves it, which makes Spike happy. But just as he saying nothing but the best for her, Angel drops a bloody heart on the table in front of her. He tells Drusilla he found it inside a quaint little shop girl. And he takes the necklace and puts it around Drusilla’s neck. Spike, who is still in the wheelchair, starts to say he’ll get it.

But Angel says, “Done.” And that Spike has to admit it’s much easier when Angel takes care of Drusilla.

Angel then ponders how best to send Buffy a message on Valentine’s Day. Spike suggest ripping her lungs out. Angel says it lacks poetry and Spike says it doesn’t have to. Drusilla intervenes and says, “Don’t worry, Spike. Angel always knows what speaks to a girl’s heart.:

Of course that does not make Spike feel any better.

Roses And A One-Quarter Twist

At the Bronze, Willow is happily watching Oz playing in the band. Xander is fiddling with the box with the necklace for Cordelia. She walks in looking stunning in a red dress.

She goes over to say hello to Harmony and the other girls and they just turn away from her.

At Buffy’s house, Buffy is watching videos with her mom and eating snacks. There’s a knock on the door. Buffy goes to the front door, but no one’s there. When she returns, Joyce is gone.

But she is in the kitchen. She found a long black box with a black ribbon at the back door. Inside are a dozen red roses and a card that says, “Soon.”

We’re moving toward the One-Quarter Twist.

That is the first major plot turn that spins the story in a new direction. It generally comes from outside the protagonist. And the protagonist from that point to the Midpoint reacts to that twist.

This story is primarily one about Xander and Cordelia. But the roses serve as a sort of One-Quarter Twist in the Angel and Buffy Valentine’s subplot, as this pushes Buffy to get more specific information from Giles.

Breakup At The Bronze

At the Bronze, Cordelia is sitting alone looking sad. Xander joins her. She says he looks good. He awkwardly says he let Buffy dress him and then amends it to that Buffy helped him pick out clothes. And Cordelia says that makes it harder.

Xander doesn’t know what she’s talking about, but he goes into a sort of speech that lets us know that maybe, despite all his comments about Cordelia, he is starting to feel something more. And he says kissing once or twice could all be just hormones, but maybe there’s something more. Maybe something in him see something special in her and vice versa.

And he gives her this necklace. This shows Xander’s vulnerability. He is reaching out, trying to take what they had both been treating as just attraction to each other into something greater.

And in typical Joss Whedon fashion, just as Xander is taking this leap and showing this vulnerability, he is crushed.

Because Cordelia thanks him for the necklace and says it’s beautiful, seeming very genuine. Giving Xander what he wanted. And then says, “I want to break up.” And she says she’s sorry, but they just don’t fit. Who are they kidding?

Xander: You know what’s a good day to break up with someone? Any day but Valentine’s Day.

The One-Quarter Twist In Betwitched, Bothered and Bewildered

Now that is the One-Quarter Twist in our main plot. It’s 12 minutes 47 seconds in. So it is slightly past the one-quarter mark in the episode. But I do see it as this whole interaction with Cordelia.

Everything from here to the Midpoint will be put in motion by this.

At school the next day a random guy laughs at Xander for the way he was dumped. Harmony and her friends also laugh in his face.

Xander sees Amy and pulls her aside. He says the Hellmouth is finally going to work for him. And he threatens to expose her using magic to fool the teacher unless she helps him. (It’s not clear exactly how Xander’s going to do that (expose Amy) since I don’t think the adults in Sunnydale are ready to admit that magic exists. But I suppose he could somehow show the teacher that Amy didn’t really turn in the paper and she would fail the class).

He tells Amy he wants her to do a love spell. And we cut to commercial.

Love Spells Need Pure Intent

When we come back Amy tells Xander love spells are the hardest ones. It’s a huge thing to make someone love you for all eternity. And Xander says wait, wait, wait, he doesn’t want Cordelia to love him so that he could be with her. He wants her to fall in love with him so he can reject her and she can feel the pain he’s feeling.

Amy says, “I don’t know intent for a love spell has to be pure.” Xander says it is pure – pure desire for revenge. She finally agrees and tells him she’ll need something that belongs to Cordelia.

So this is what I meant by Xander’s ambiguity playing into and driving the plot here. Because we’re told intent has to be pure. Xander, not only does he want revenge, but I think this is fueled by that feeling of he wasn’t even certain there was more there with Cordelia. And somehow that that makes it worse for him because he put himself out on this limb for someone he wasn’t even sure was the right person for him. He was starting to have these feelings for her and she nonetheless rejected him.

That’s my take on it. It could also be that he really does have these deep feelings. But definitely not a pure intent.

In the library, Buffy gives Giles the card from Angel and says, “Soon what, Giles? You never held out on me until the big bad thing in the dark became my ex honey.”

And Giles says she’s right, he will tell her what he learned in his research about Angelus.

Symbolism And Hearts

We switch to the hallway. Xander asks Cordelia for the necklace back. She says she thought it was a gift, but he insists. Now we see Cordelia’s true feelings and vulnerability. She pretends the necklace is in her locker. But she is actually wearing it under her shirt. So she goes to her locker, opens the door to shield herself, and takes it off. She buttons up her shirt again, gives it to him, and says at least now she doesn’t need to pretend to like it.

This is part of what makes us like Cordelia better. And we have been building this, that she does have genuine feelings for Xander. This also sets up her having a change of heart at the end of the episode.

I don’t think it’s any mistake that the necklace is a heart necklace. It’s not just an allusion to Valentine’s Day, but it’s an allusion to Cordelia’s change of heart. And perhaps the heart that Angel dropped on the table for Drusilla is symbolic of her heart changing. Being more drawn to Angel than Spike.

The Spell

About 17.5 minutes in, in a dark classroom with lit candles all around, Amy calls on the goddess Diana and casts a love spell.

The next day Xander walks through the halls, kind of swaggering and heads straight for Cordelia. She’s sitting with Harmony and her friends. But she’s annoyed with him and asks if he’s going stalker boy on her.

In the library, Giles is going through the terrible things. Angel has done to torment women that he loved. Buffy tells Giles he can skip the part about Angel nailing a puppy to the tree since she doesn’t have a puppy.

Xander walks in complaining about how awful his life is. Giles is back in the stacks, researching. Buffy tells Xander she heard about him and Cordelia and it’s Cordelia’s loss. Then she tells him she’d really like it if the two of them could just get together that night and hang out. Maybe comfort each other.

Xander makes a joke about whether that comfort might include a lap dance which he finds really comforting. And Buffy says if he plays his cards right and moves closer to him.

Xander says something like, “Okay, you, know you’re talking to me, right? Xander.”

and Buffy says she was surprised how glad she felt when she heard about him and Cordelia breaking up.

Foreshadowing Payoff

So this is why we got that moment in Phases where we have that little bit of tension between Buffy and Xander. It foreshadows or builds up that Xander might think that Buffy being interested in him might be genuine. Because she then says, “It’s funny how you can see someone every day but not really see them, you know?”

And they’re about to kiss and Amy comes in and interrupts.

Out in the hallway, she tells Xander she doesn’t think the spell worked right. But she is pretty new at this so they can try again. He glances through the window in the door to the library. Buffy is sending him sultry looks.

He tries to put Amy off. But then she says will they don’t have to cast spells, they could just hang out.

Xander Realizes Something At The Midpoint

And Amy says, “You know, it’s funny how you can see a person every day and not – ”

Xander says, “Not really see them.”

Amy says, “Exactly,” looking so thrilled that Xander knew what she was thinking. Another girl comes up and wants to study with Xander. He says he has to go.

We are now getting to the Midpoint of the episode.

And here we normally see a major reversal for the protagonist or a major commitment. Xander is the protagonist here (and I’ll talk about that a little bit more later). But first we have this major reversal. And I feel like this is a particularly interesting one. Because while it is part of the main plot, it is primarily a reversal about relationships. Which really fits because it’s a Valentine’s Day episode.

Coming Soon:  Coherence

Thank you all for listening. If you enjoy the show and would like it to continue, please post a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts or tell a friend about the show also. Thank you in particular to patrons who help make the show go forward. You can join them for just a dollar a month and get access to bonus content including a breakdown of Jessica Jones.

I will also be recording over the next month a breakdown of a film where Nicholas Brendan, the actor who plays Xander, is one of an ensemble cast. It’s called Coherence and I’m really interested to look at it because according to what I read about it, it was done without a script.

The actors were given information before each scene and then it was mostly improv. So I’m really curious to see how the plot structure I normally look for and use in my own writing, whether we will still see that framework there.

Coherence is a sort of quiet horror story. It takes place when a comet is coming close to the earth and what that causes to happen to this group of people. These friends meeting for dinner party.

There is a link in the show notes for Patreon. You can also search for my Patreon page, but I made it particularly challenging because I somehow through an extra L in my name when I set it up. So you would have to look for a patreon.com/LisaMLlilly but spelled as L I S a M as in Marie double L I double L Y. I guess I really really like those Ls.

Midpoint Reversal As Xander Tries To Hide

Xander has gone home to get away from this chaos he created. And there he hurts the last person in the world he wants to hurt. Because when he sits down on his bed, Willow pops out from under the covers.

This is about 21.5 minutes in, so right about that Midpoint. And she comes on to him and he tries to hold her off. He says what about Oz. She says she doesn’t care. She just wants Xander.

Xander tells her he cast a spell and it backfired. Willow ignores that and continues to come closer to him. She says she wants Xander to be her first and they both know that it’s right. Xander says this has to stop. He runs.

At school, Harmony and the other girls shun Cordelia once again. And she says okay what did she do now, wear red and purple together? Harmony says Xander is wounded because of Cordelia and only a sick pup would let Xander get away. No matter what her friends said.

Xander is now at school again because he’s going to seek help from Giles. All the girls stare at him and follow him.

Xander Confesses

He tells Giles he made a mess and cast a love spell. As he is trying to explain Jenny comes in and says she and Giles really need to talk. But she, too, becomes distracted by Xander, telling him what a nice shirt he’s wearing, touching his shoulder, asking if he’s been working out. Even as she is trying to convince Giles to give her another chance. Xander nods toward Jenny and looks desperately at Giles.

Giles: I cannot believe that you were fool enough to do something like this.

Xander: Oh no, I’m twice the fool it takes to do something like this.

Giles tells him people under love spells are deadly. They lose all reason. And he tells Xander not to leave the library, he’ll find Amy and try to get her to reverse the spell.

Xander pushes the card catalog in front of the double doors, but unfortunately the doors swing outward. So Buffy just opens one and strolls right in around the card catalog.

Buffy Comes On To Xander

She is wearing a very short black raincoat, apparently with nothing on underneath it. She starts to take it off. Xander begs her not to. He’s saying if he thought this was real to her it would be different. But she has no clue what it really would mean to him. She’s under spell and they can’t do this.

Buffy gets angry and says has he been toying with her? Is it just a game?

Amy comes in and yells at Buffy to get away from Xander, he belongs to her. Buffy then accuses him of two timing her. It escalates and Buffy punches Amy. Amy then does a spell, calling on the goddess Hecate and says, “Before me let the unclean thing crawl.”

Buffy seems to disappear. Her raincoat drops in a heap on the ground.  Very small heap, it’s a small coat.

The Buffy Rat

This seems like our Three-Quarter Turn. Like the One-Quarter Twist, the turn at the three-quarter point spins the story in yet another direction, but it grows out of the Midpoint. So it isn’t coming from outside the protagonist. This could seem like a major plot turn because something terrible has happened to Buffy.

But, as we’ll see, while it adds a wrinkle in what’s going on, it doesn’t really turn our main story.

It is, though a great hook and we cut to commercial.

When we return a rat crawls out from under the raincoat. So Buffy has not has not disappeared or been killed. She’s been turned into a rat.

Giles and Jenny return. Xander tells Amy to undo the spell. Something Jenny echoes, and then adds that when she’s done, she should leave because Xander belongs with her (Jenny). Amy starts another spell against Jenny, but Xander stops her.

Giles tells Jenny and Amy to sit down and be quiet and says, “We have to catch the Buffy rat.”

Which is about thirty minutes in.

Everyone’s Angry

Xander is down on the floor looking for the rat and Oz comes in and punches him. Which hurts his hand. He says he was on the phone with Willow all night listening to Willow cry about Xander. Oz isn’t sure what’s going on but he was left “with a very strong urge to hit you” (he says to Xander). And then helps him up.

Buffy as a rat runs out the door. Giles tells Xander to go home and lock himself away. He’ll try to break the spell with Amy and Jenny. And he asks Oz to go look for Buffy.

Giles is both angry about the spell at all, but mainly that Xander has put Buffy in such danger. He tells Xander to get out of his sight.

Xander looks so despondent. Looking down, he leaves.

We’re now 31.5 minutes in and in the hallway girls are surrounding Cordelia, beating her up.

Xander sees it and he breaks in to carry her out of the school.

It’s Not Love

Giles, talking to Jenny and Amy, says that Cordelia’s necklace must have protected her from the spell. Jenny and Amy argue about which one of them has a real love for Xander. Giles yells at them, and Amy says he has no idea what she’s going through.

And then we get this quote from Giles.

Giles: I know it’s not love. It’s obsession. Selfish, banal obsession. Now Xander’s put himself in very great danger. If you cared at all about him, you’d help me save him rather than wittering on about your feelings.

While Giles is talking Jenny disappears out the door.

The Three-Quarter Turn In Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

We now get to our Three-Quarter Turn. It’s about 32.5 minutes in, so right about three quarters through the episode.

Cordelia and Xander run outside the school. Xander thinks that they’ve lost the group that was pursuing them. Then they both freeze as they see a group of girls and women waiting for Xander, including Willow with an ax. And Xander tells her she doesn’t really want to hurt him.

Willow says he doesn’t know how hard this is for her. She loves him so much, and she’d rather see him dead than with that bitch.

This is the turn that comes from both Xander’s actions casting the love spell and from that reversal at the Midpoint where he hurt Willow so badly. And now the shift is these women and girls, they want to kill Xander and also Cordelia. We already saw them being violent toward Cordelia. Harmony and the other girls come outside from the school. Xander and Cordelia get away while the two groups of women and girls fight each other.

The nice thing about this turn is it doesn’t just shift the story, but it escalates the stakes. Because now we are talking about mortal danger.

Differences From Teacher’s Pet

I can’t help contrasting this episode with Teacher’s Pet. That was the one with the praying mantis from Season One. Where we didn’t spend a lot of time in Xander’s point of view, but I really struggled to figure out whether Xander or Buffy was the protagonist.

Here, it’s much more clear.

A protagonist should have a goal and be actively pursuing that goal throughout the episode, be the main viewpoint character, and have the most at stake.

Why Xander Is The Protagonist – The Goal

In this episode, Xander is the only one actively pursuing a goal throughout the episode. His first goal is to advance his relationship with Cordelia. Then we build on that and turn it a bit because it’s to get revenge.

And then it is to protect himself and Cordelia, which grew out of those first goals.

Buffy, in contrast, is in reaction mode through the entire episode. Reacting to Angel’s roses, to what Giles tells her, and then to the love spell – first by coming on to Xander and now she is a rat.

Cordelia initially is reacting to her friends’ disapproval, and then to the fallout of the love spell. So we will see that as a character, Cordelia experiences the most growth thought she is not the protagonist.

Why Xander Is The Protagonist – Point Of View And The Stakes

Xander also is our main point of view character. We see him the most often. He has the most screen time. And we mainly see through his eyes, though we do see quite a bit through Cordelia’s eyes as well.

Finally, Xander has the most at stake. Yes, both he and Cordelia are in danger of being killed. But Xander also has extreme emotional stakes.

We see how devastated he is when Giles expresses such disappointment, such anger, that he can’t even look at Xander. While we haven’t got a huge amount about Xander’s home life, we know that it is not good. And we see in this moment how much Giles means to him. How crushed he is by Giles disappointment.

Xander also has endangered his friendship with Willow. They’ve known each other forever and now he has devastated her. And he jeopardized Buffy. Also, he has lost Cordelia. or thinks he has. Things are just awful. Everything is at stake for Xander. So he is clearly the protagonist here, unlike in Teacher’s Pet.

Chasing And Running

The scene switches to the school basement where the Buffy rat is going down the stairs. A few minutes later Oz follows with a flashlight. We see the rat encounter a cat.

We switch back to Cordelia and Xander running down the street. Cordelia asks what’s going on and who died and made you Elvis? They see Buffy’s house. Xander says he’ll explain later. But they should get inside.

At first, Joyce is very concerned about the situation. She tells Cordelia to go upstairs and get some bandages and says Xander should sit down and tell her all about it. He sits at the kitchen table. Joyce says she’ll get him something to drink. Does he prefer cold or hot?

And she starts rubbing his shoulders. Je drops his head on the table.

Cordelia Does Care

Cordelia returns and, again through some humor, We get an advancement of the plot. Plus more insight into Cordelia. She pulls Joyce off of Xander, pushes Joyce out the back door, slams the door and says, “And keep your Mom-aged mitts off my boyfriend. Former.”

Such a nice example of using humor to convey emotional vulnerability here. She then asks Xander if everyone has gone insane. And he says why is it so hard for her to believe other women find him attractive?

We get a great quote here.

Cordelia: The only way you could get girls to want you would be witchcraft.

Xander: That is such a – well, yeah, okay, good point.

More Danger

Joyce breaks the window in the back door to try to get back in. Cordelia and Xander run up to Buffy’s room. Again we get a nice mix of humor and escalating the plot. Xander says “we’re safer up here” and Angel bursts through the window and grabs Xander and yanks him out.

We have a quick scene switch to the Buffy rat in basement as she noses around a trap.

Then we are back with Xander. Angel throws him on the ground. He wants to know where Buffy is, but then he says this will work. He wanted to do something special for Buffy for Valentine’s Day. As he’s about to kill Xander, someone pulls Angel off and throws him aside. We think it’s Buffy, and Xander says, “Buffy?”

But no, it’s Drusilla in vamp face. She too is enamored of Xander and won’t let Angel harm him. She tells Angel that she finally found a real man. Angel says maybe he really did drive her crazy.

Juggling Many Storylines

Sometimes if we have that many different plots and subplots going in a story, it can be too much. It can end up being convoluted or jumbled. But here they mesh so nicely.

Cordelia’s inner conflict about wanting to be popular and her external conflict with her friends. This thwarts Xander, and leads to the very thing he fears, which is rejection. Xander then turns to Amy, who is engaging in witchcraft. Which is dangerous and it backfires. This backfire in turn forces Cordelia to confront her conflicting desires and the external conflict between her and her friends.

Also, Angel’s threat, which I see has a subplot that is mainly there to remind us of the danger he poses, also intertwines with this. Because we see it used for humor and a bit of comic relief in Xander’s story.

As so often with the writers on the show, I am just amazed at how they bring together moving parts and make it look so easy and so natural.

Xander, Dru, And Angel

Drusilla is focused on Xander and asks how he feels about eternal life. Xander says we couldn’t just start with coffee, a movie, maybe? He’s looking very frightened. We are 37.5 minutes in we are moving to our climax where our opposing forces will converge, and our conflicts will resolve in a dramatic way.

 

What I like about that scene with Xander and Drusilla and Angel is that when I first watched it, I’m pretty sure I felt real concern for Xander.

I wasn’t too worried about the Buffy rat. We’re clearly not going to kill Buffy off as a rat. But we have seen, we saw Jesse first episode turned into a vampire and dusted. Maybe the show is going to turn Xander into a vampire.

After all, Angel had this major turn. The whole season has been about You’re Not Who I Thought You Were. All of these twists. It still probably seemed unlikely to me that this would happen, but there was just enough uncertainty there to enjoy the humor and yet feel concerned.

The Angry Mob Helps Xander

Drusilla does start to bite him, but the angry mob has found Xander. They rush to him, knocking him over, but also shoving Drusilla aside.

Cordelia runs out. She pushes the girls away and drag Xander inside. The mob follows them.

Drusilla tries to, but an invisible barrier repels her. Angel, who is over behind a tree, says, “Sorry Dru. I guess you’re not invited.”

Joyce joins the mob. Many of them have weapons no. Cordelia and Xander run into the basement

We’re about 38 minutes in.

A Tale Of Two Basements In Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered

And we switch quickly to the basement of the school. Oz is saying “Here, Buffy, Here, Buffy.” Then we’re with Giles and Amy in a lab with the potion.

Then we are back in the Summers basement. Xander asks Cordelia for a nail and nails the door shut. And this is so nice. Because remember their first kiss was in this basement. After barricading the door against the bug man or the worm man.

Now Cordelia says, “If we die in here I’m going to kick your ass.”

Xander says none of this would’ve happened if she hadn’t broken up with him. But she’s so desperate for popularity. And she fires back and says he embraced the black arts just to get girls to like him.

He tells her that her hide’s so thick that not even magic can penetrate it.

A Big Change

This changes things because she stops yelling and she touches his arm and says you mean the spell is for me. She’s clearly touched by this. So now that we have this lovely moment, a giant knife slices through the door and they run down the stairs. They’re backed into a corner.

Above them in one of those small basement windows. More people break through the window.

Quick cuts back and for through the various scenes really helps get that feel of escalating tension and conflict as it all comes together.

It also is wrapping up all our different storylines because now we are back in the lab, with Giles and Amy.

The Spells End In Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

Amy is saying a spell about Hecate, telling her to withdraw. There’s a small explosion.

Back in the school basement, Oz is closing in on the rat. It’s behind some stacked boxes. And we get flashing lights and Oz says, “Buffy.” Buffy’s head pops up over the boxes.

Willow, Joyce, and the other girls break through the door.

Remember, there were two spells Amy did. There was the spell about Hecate to turn Buffy into a rat. But that was after the love spell.

Giles’ Choice

Interesting that Giles had her reverse the Hecate a spell first and save Buffy. Of course he doesn’t know how much things have escalated. He didn’t see Willow with the ax or the mob. But he is the one who warned us.

I guess you can argue that getting your Slayer back would be the most important thing, even aside from the personal relationship.

So in that basement all the girls are closing in, weapons raised. Back in the laboratory Giles adds powder to the potion and says words about Diana.

We flash quickly to all the women and girls with the weapons. Xander and Cordelia cowering. Giles drops the necklace into the potion.

Lots of flashing lights in the lab and in the basement. All the women and girls suddenly stop and start to back away.

Falling Action

Now we’re in the Falling Action where we tie up the loose ends. The women and girls are all very confused. They don’t know what’s happening.

In the school basement Buffy crosses her arms over herself. We only see shoulders up because she is behind the boxes.

Buffy: “I seem to be having a slight case of nudity here.”

Oz: But you’re not a rat. Call it an upside.

Explaining Away

In the other basement, Joyce asks what happened. Cordelia says “Boy that was the best scavenger hunt ever.”

And we cut immediately to the school hallway the next day. Buffy says, “Scavenger hunt?”

She’s walking with Xander and she asks if that’s the best he could do.

Xander says her mom seemed to buy it. Buffy tells him Joyce was so wigged at hitting on one of her friends that she’s repressing.

Xander says Willow’s not talking to him. Buffy tells him that it was worse for Willow than anyone because Willow loved him before he did the spell. She thinks it’s going to be a while before Willow forgives him.

Character Growth For Cordelia

Cordelia is walking in the hall with Harmony. They’re chatting away, just like they used to, talking about the dance. Everything seems fine until they run into Xander. Harmony yells at him for getting in the way and says something mean, then turns back to Cordelia to pick up their conversation.

Cordelia: Do you know what you are, Harmony? You’re a sheep.

Harmony: I’m not a sheep.

But Cordelia says all Harmony ever does is what everyone else does, just so she can say she did it first.

Cordelia: Here. I am scrambling for your approval when I’m way cooler than you.

Cordelia goes on to say she’ll do whatever she wants to do so, wear whatever she wants. And then she says:

“And you know what? I’ll date whoever the hell I want to date, no matter how lame he is.”

And she walks away with Xander, arm in arm.

Which Characters Grow

Cordelia gasps and says what did she do. Xander tells her it’s okay just keep walking. And if it makes her feel better, whenever they’re around her friends they can fight a lot.

She says, “You promise?”

And Xander says they can pretty much count on it.

So this is what I mean abo Cordelia having the most character growth here.

Buffy has been part of this kind of humorous side plot and she’s learned little more about Angel, but there’s no real growth for her.

Xander probably learned not to cast love spells. I’m not sure that he has grown much personally.

True Transformation

But Cordelia has had this real transformation. I think she realized some things about popularity. About who is a leader and who is not and why.

But also about being who she is. And that her strength is being willing to say what she thinks and do what she wants. She is going to continue to do that even if her popular friends disapprove.

It also says something about the strength of her feelings for Xander, but I do think it is more about her internal growth.

Next Week On Buffy And The Art Of Story

Other than Spoilers, that is it for this episode, I hope you will stay around, though.

As I mentioned at the outset, this seems like such an almost light, one-off episode. It’s fun. Whenever I’m about to rewatch, I always kind of think, “Oh yeah,  that’s the love spell episode.” And I almost don’t want to rewatch it because as I remember it think it doesn’t go anywhere.

It’s kind of fluffy, and we don’t have a lot about Buffy in it. Then I watch it and I remember how much happens there. How much we set up for what’s coming next.

So I hope you’ll stick around. If you don’t, I hope to see you next Monday. Thank you so much for listening.

Spoilers

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And we are back for Spoilers and foreshadowing. So much here.

Buffy And Jenny

We have very subtle thawing of Buffy’s anger towards Jenny. Or maybe not her anger but her feelings about not being able to be around Jenny. Not being able to handle Giles and Jenny together. She stares at the floor when Jenny comes out. So clearly she can’t really even handle seeing Jenny.

Yet afterwards she asks Giles how he is. She is concerned for him.

Giles And Buffy

We also have more strengthening of the Buffy/Giles bond. Because we see how concerned he is when she is in danger. He is so angry at Xander. He already thinks Xander is foolish. But when Buffy becomes a rat that is when Giles says, “Get out of my sight.”

And as I mentioned, he reverses the spell about Hecate, or has Amy reverse it, first.

Amy Doing Spells

We also have this advancement of Amy’s storyline. Initially, she seemed very much like just part of that one-off episode [The Witch].

But now we have her doing spells. This foreshadows Gingerbread next season That’s when Joyce and the other parents will turn on their children, particularly the ones who are involved in the occult.

So this puts Amy in danger, along with Willow and Buffy. And it foreshadows that Amy is learning spells, but she hasn’t perfected it. So we won’t be so surprised when things go wrong, but terribly wrong for her in Gingerbread. Or I guess in the aftermath of Gingerbread, when no one can figure out how to undo her spell.

The Danger Of Magic

It also foreshadows the problem of using spells to advance your own personal interests. And that is such a key story arc for Willow. That plays out in such an interesting way in the series. Initially, Willow’s focus is doing witchcraft to help fight the forces of evil. That is why she learns it and pursues it. And we will see her take a first major step in this season.

But we will then gradually see her start to turn to magic more and more to avoid dealing with her feelings. And eventually to try to change other people with tragic consequences.

All of that is foreshadowed here when we see first Amy is using witchcraft to help her grades. No immediate consequence from that. But then we see as Xander does it for a love spell.

Amy is aware of this danger and warns him he is trying to do something to harm somebody or change somebody.

Now a love spell would be doing that regardless even if you had pure intent. Giles tells us how dangerous any love spell is. So that sets up Giles as the one who is saying, yes, if you use magic. It has to be done responsibly.

That will become a conflict between Willow and Giles.

Reminding Us Of The Rules Of Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s World

There were a couple quick – maybe not foreshadowings – but reminders. I think both foreshadowing and a reminder of when vampires can enter.

Because we see Drusilla is barred. The house literally seems to have an invisible wall against her. But Angel, who has been invited in, and is been inside many times, is able to reach through the window and grab Xander.

Danger Angel Poses

So we have that foreshadowing of the danger Angel poses, that he can still get in. We have the hint of danger to Joyce because she’s the one who goes to the back door and gets those roses.

And there is what Giles tells us about brutal displays of affection. We will see that play out in the next episode. We even have this side reference to nailing a puppy to a tree, and next episode we will see Willow’s goldfish be killed.

It foreshadows that Angel will do these things to emotionally devastate people. And go beyond just killing people. I don’t mean “just.” But really he takes it as an art form to torment people, including through gestures like the roses. Things that will make the person, the victim, fearful.

Xander Foreshadowing

We also have foreshadowing of Cordelia and Xander’s relationship never being quite solid. Though it will last for some time, there are these fissures, faultlines, there. And that sense of Cordelia really being more invested than Xander in the relationship.

Xander has mixed feelings about Cordelia. He does want to advance the relationship. Yet he is saying all these negative things about her. It foreshadows his relationship with Anya.

There, too, through much of the series Anya will seem more invested than Xander in the relationship. And he will likewise say these critical things about her.

This episode also foreshadows that Willow’s deep feelings for Xander have not completely gone away. It sets up some of the triangle issues in Season Three.

Looking Ahead To Passion

Finally, Giles quote about it’s not love, its obsession.

I don’t think I noticed this on any prior watch, but it is signaling the theme of Passion next week. That issue of what is passion, what does it mean. What is the difference between love and obsession.

So I love that the writers worked this in. That the Valentines episode, the love spell episode, brought us right into Passion.

So that is it for the Spoilers and foreshadowing. I do hope you’ll come back next week for Passion next Monday night.

In the meantime, if you would like to share your thoughts about the show or any questions about story structure you can email me lisa @ lisalilly.com or find me on Twitter @LisaMLilly #BuffyStory.

Music for this episode was composed and performed by Robert Newcastle. The podcast Buffy and the Art of Story is a production of Spiny Woman LLC. Copyright 2020.