Reptile Boy S2 E5

Buffy and the Art of Story Podcast CoverThis week on Buffy and the Art of Story: Reptile Boy (Season 2 Episode 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

This podcast episode covers (1) theme woven into story; (2) a huge turning point for Buffy and Giles; (3) escalating conflict and why the Midpoint of your story matters; and (4) the first of many demon snakes in Buffy

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

Next Up: Halloween S2 E6

Last Week: Inca Mummy Girl S2 E4

Work On Your Story

Additional Episode Links from Reptile Boy

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through this site, but that doesn’t change the purchase price to you as the buyer or influence my love for the Buffy DVDs and all things Buffy.

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

Episode Transcript for Reptile Boy

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

This Monday were talking about Season Two Episode Five, Reptile Boy.

In addition to the usual breakdown of the plot points I will be talking about:

  • a huge turning point for Giles and Buffy;
  • highlights from the DVD commentary by the writer and director of Reptile Boy, David Greenwalt;
  • and the first of many demon snakes that we will see in Buffy.

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.

Opening Conflict In Reptile Boy

The opening conflict is quiet at first. Xander and Buffy are braiding Willow’s hair as the three friends try to figure out what’s happening in an Indian soap opera. The dialogue is in Hindi, and there are no subtitles.

Willow and Xander sort of complain about having no money and nothing to do. Buffy, though, says she’s happy because it’s quiet all over Sunnydale.

We then move on to a more conflict. About 2.5 minutes in we see a large house with many windows. A girl crashes through one on the upper floor, climbs down, and runs. Someone in a monk like robe follows her, chasing her. And she runs through the trees and climbs a wall to go into one of the many cemeteries in Sunnydale.

In the cemetery, three guys in robes are chasing her. Yet another one appears in front of her and grabs her. He calls her Callie and tells her she can’t get away. After taking his hood off, he e looks right at the camera so we cannot miss seeing his face. He’s blond and good-looking and looks to be around college age.

This could be our Story Spark or Inciting Incident. This is a little bit early because normally that comes at about 10% through our story. Here, while it does set off a story, it does not set off the true arc of the episode. That arc has to do with Buffy and the choices that she makes. So we will see that happen a little bit later.

Cordelia’s Quest For College Men

For now we switch to credits and come back to Cordelia. She is doing a fake laugh in the hall – practicing it. And explaining to her friend that Doctor Debbie’s says to draw in a boy or man, you need to make serious eye contact and really listen. And laugh at all his jokes.

Buffy tells Willow as they walk down the hallway about a sexy dream she had about Angel. Willow says something like, “Oh, you two are so right for each other, except for –” And Buffy says except for him being a vampire, and she’s the Slayer.

Willow says they could go out for coffee. She says it’s not a date, it’s a caffeinated beverage and calls it the “non-relationship drink of choice.”

We get a nice back-and-forth quote here.

Xander: What’s like a relationship?

Buffy: Nothing. I have.

Xander overhears Cordelia talking about how she’s dating college guys only, and they make fun of one another. Cordelia gets in the last insult.

She says, “I just know your pizza delivery career will take you so many exciting places.”

Story Spark In Reptile Boy

Around 5 minutes 59 seconds in, so a little bit later than 10%, we get what I see as the true Story Spark or Inciting Incident of the episode.

Buffy has said to her friends that she thinks Giles won’t be upset that she’s a little late for training because things have been so quiet. Giles takes a completely different position. He tells her that just because things are quiet doesn’t mean she can slack off. That now is the time to patrol even more and train even harder.

And Buffy says something like, “Okay, in the five minutes between seven and seven oh five in the morning, can I do what I want then?”

I see this as the Inciting Incident because it will drive the choices Buffy makes. She feels very frustrated at being treated like a child. She can be ordered around by everyone at the same time as she has all these adult responsibilities. So it will set her off to accept when Cordelia later invites her to a fraternity party.

Greenwalt’s Take On The Theme

I had already been thinking this moment was the Inciting Incident and then I watched the episode again with the DVD commentary by David Greenwalt. He said that he thinks Buffy is at its best when the theme is clear. Here, he says the theme is Buffy feeling like she’s being treated like a child by the adults in her life. And she rebels against that and that has terrible repercussions.

Also, he sees Buffy who, like many teenagers, she’s at the cusp of adulthood and yet still a child.

And in my view, it’s even tougher for Buffy because she has more responsibility than most adults ever have.

That Greenwalt sees this as the theme of the episode and what drives the story, I feel confirms that this is the Inciting Incident: Giles pushing and pushing and pushing Buffy. Also ordering her around. She’s kind of pouting and he says this isn’t getting to him. And he tells her: “We all have to do things we don’t like and you will come for hand-to-hand training and you will patrol.”

And he really does speak to her as if she is a little kid who is just being difficult and refusing to listen. He also ends by saying she needs to be there after school and “don’t dawdle with your friends.”

Buffy Dawdles With Her Friends

Of course, the next scene we see is Buffy outside after school. Willow and Xander are chatting with her. And they say, “Hey, what are you doing?” And she’s like: “I’m dawdling. With my friends.”

A very nice car pulls up. I wish I could tell you what type, but I’m just not car person.

Richard is driving. He is the guy we saw in the cemetery that we got such a great look at his face. So we know it’s him. He has a friend in the passenger seat. (We’ll find out his name is Tom.) Cordelia runs up to the car. She does her fake laugh when Richard asks her to come to a little get together at “the house.”

Tom sees Buffy and he’s interested, so Richard says to Cordelia, “Who’s your friend?”

Great Cordelia Quotes

Cordelia says, “She’s not my friend.” But when she realizes Tom wants to meet he, she quickly recovers and says, “She’s more like a sister. We’re that close.”

Cordelia, looking unhappy, goes over to Buffy and says the guys want to meet her. And we get another great back-and-forth. This is one of my quotes of the episode.

Buffy: I don’t really want to meet any fraternity boys.

Cordelia: And if there was a God, don’t you think he’d keep it that way?

She drags Buffy over. Richard calls her sweetheart and is generally a jerk and she turns to walk way. But Tom intervenes.

Tom Flirts With Buffy

Tom apologizes for Richard. He makes few jokes is kind of self-deprecating. He says he feels like a dolt standing there. And here he stands “in all his all his doltishness.” Xander is watching and saying she’s gonna walk away, she’ll never fall for that.

But Buffy seems to like Tom, who’s a history major and a senior in college. He tells her he only joined the fraternity because it meant a lot to his father and grandfather. He asks her to come to the party. But Buffy says she can’t, she’s seeing someone.

Tom jokes about talking too much and rambling. In another great quote, Buffy says, “You know, people underestimate the value of a good ramble.”

Nearing The First Major Plot Turn

Giles comes out points to his watch, very irritated. And she goes inside.

We are nearing the first major plot point that turns the story in a new direction. In my book Super Simple Story Structure and in the templates that I have available, I call it the One-Quarter Twist. Because quite often you see it exactly at one quarter through a movie or book.

Here, I think it comes quite a bit later.

Although there are some shifts here that could qualify.

First, we see Buffy in the graveyard. She finds a broken bracelet. Angel appears and he tells her there’s blood on it. He can smell it (there isn’t enough to see). This is about 11 minutes 31 seconds in, so that is a quarter way through roughly this 42-43 minute episode.

An Emotional Turn

And we have this emotional shift or turn in the emotional story because Buffy says something like, “Wouldn’t it be funny to see each other when it wasn’t about blood and violence?” Angel says, oh, she means she wants to date, and pretty soon shall be asking him for coffee.

Buffy says, “Coffee?”

They have a back-and-forth. Angel is saying he’s two hundred forty-one years old, she’s sixteen. She says she can do the math. But he’s telling her she’s young, she doesn’t know what she’s she wants. He’s trying to protect her. He also says things could get out of control.

Buffy says isn’t that how it’s supposed to be? Angel warns her that it’s not a fairytale. When he kisses her, she’s not going to wake up from a deep sleep. And Buffy says, “No, when you kiss me, I want to die.”

They have this very dramatic moment and she runs away.

Is Buffy Overdramatic?

That line really is not one of my favorites. I wish I could remember how I felt when I first watched it. Now it seems over-the-top and overdramatic. But it is probably accurate to the very dramatic situation Buffy is in. And that she’s sixteen and this is the first time she has really fallen in love.

In the scene-by-scene commentary director and writer David Greenwalt said this was one of his favorite lines. And he pitched it to Joss Whedon and he was so pleased when Joss agreed to use it. So he obviously felt this was a great line.

No One Takes Buffy Seriously

It is a significant turn in the Buffy-Angel relationship. They have indirectly talked about their feelings to towards each other, but this is the first explicit conversation about dating or having a relationship. Even the word dating tells you a lot. Because for Angel, what would that mean? He can’t take her to a movie or take her out to dinner.

So it truly highlights the difficulties.

And it is a turn because this is a second person who is important in her life, who Buffy loves, and he is saying: You’re a kid. You’re too young. You don’t understand what’s going on. Which is really frustrating and upsetting. It makes her feel no one is taking her seriously.

I still think, however, that our first major plot turn comes a little bit later.

Cordelia Asks Buffy To The Party

At 13 minutes 52 seconds in Cordelia finds Buffy alone at school and says something like: “Did you lose weight? And your hair – ” And then she says, “Okay, I respect you too much to lie. And the hair – well, that’s not the point.”

Cordelia explains that Richard’s fraternity need some sort of balance at the party. But Cordelia was so busy really listening that she didn’t hear him. All she knows is Buffy has to come or she can’t go to the party. She tells Buffy she’s not being selfish. She’s thinking of all the good she could do with the money because this is Richard Anderson of Anderson Farms, Anderson Aeronautics and Anderson cosmetics. Which brings Cordelia near tears.

The One-Quarter Twist In Reptile Boy

I see this as the One-Quarter Twist in the story because it’s coming from completely outside of Buffy. It’s also something we wouldn’t expect to see before this episode. Cordelia inviting Buffy, not just to a party, but somewhere where she really wants to make an impression. ecause while she liked Buffy in the beginning, and she does seem to admire her, she also views Buffy and her friends — she called them lepers at some point. Or one of her boyfriends did.

So we wouldn’t expect Cordelia to invite Buffy to something where Cordelia wants to build up her own popularity.

But she does so and at 14 minutes 36 seconds in Buffy says she’ll go. And this takes the story entirely in a new direction. Because even though the finding of the bracelet would presumably prompt Buffy eventually to investigate, she wouldn’t be at the fraternity party.

How Do They Name The Demons In Buffy?

Next we see all these fraternity boys in the basement wearing robes. Doing this ritual. They’re pledging themselves to Machida.

In the commentary, David Greenwalt said that it was really hard throughout the show to keep naming all these demons. He was really excited about what a great job he did coming up with Machida. And then later he saw that name on some of the tools that the grips were carrying around. Even though he spelled it different.

(I looked it up in on IMDb and then I searched Google. And there is a toolmaker Makita, which has to be what Greenwalt was referring to. And, interestingly, they spell it the way I saw the name in my head: M A K I T A.

Bad Things Happen There

Our fraternity guys are chanting, going through these rituals. Then they break out the beer when they’re done. And we see that Callie is chained up in the basement.

We switch to Buffy, Willow, and Xander talking. Buffy says that she’s going to a fraternity party with Cordelia. Willow says, “Cordelia?” and then asks if she sounded jealous –because she’s not. She also says she is worried about Buffy going. She has heard things about fraternity parties. That there’s lots of drinking and maybe orgies and bad things happen there.

Buffy, though, is focused on that nothing happened with Angel and nothing ever happens because he treats her like child. Xander chimes in about how terrible that is, criticizing Angel. Until he realizes she’s going to the party with Tom. And he says something like: “Buffy, really? Frying pan, fire.”

So we have a little more of jealous Xander, though I feel like he is funnier here in that he is so open about it.

Lies In The Library

In the library, Buffy shows Giles the bracelet. Xander jumps in and says “she” should patrol that night and the rest of them should research. Giles agrees that “she” should do that. And Buffy says, “She’s standing right here, and she’s not available.”

Then she tells Giles that she doesn’t want to patrol tonight because she has a lot of homework. And her mom isn’t feeling well, and, well, to be honest, she’s not feeling that well herself.

I really like this line because it seems like the sort of overkill that someone who feels guilty about lying might do. She gives not just one excuse but three of them.

Also, she throws in “to be honest.” Which, as a lawyer, when you’re learning about preparing witnesses for trial or deposition, you learn that sometimes “to be honest” or “to tell the truth” can be a cue that someone was lying in the other things they said or is about to tell a lie. Because most of us, if we are generally honest, don’t walk around telling people how honest we are. We don’t need to do that.

It also can be just a verbal tic for some people that they fallen into the habit of. But usually I tell my witnesses to try not to say that.

Concerns For And About Buffy

Giles, though, says of course she should stay home. I love that he’s very concerned about Buffy.

Willow is really upset about this. She doesn’t tell on Buffy. But when they’re out in the hall she is saying, ”You lied. You lied to Giles.” Buffy says she just wants to have some fun for a change. So we get one of those cuts that I love where we pick up on that line.

Cordelia is talking to Buffy, and she says, “This isn’t about fun. It’s about your duty.” The  duty to help Cordelia achieve prosperity. She gives Buffy a list of rules to follow. What she can wear. What she can say.

And Buffy bangs her head down on the table.

What Is The Rule Of Three?

Xander decides to go to the fraternity party to keep and eye on Buffy. And Willow says, “You want to protect her? Show you’re as good as those rich guys? And maybe catch an orgy.” And he agrees.

I like these lines. They show the Rule of Three, which is that, often, to say three things is very powerful. For whatever reason that kind of sticks with people more, and it has a resonance. So that could also be part of why we got three excuses from Buffy.

And here Willow has three things she says. And the last one is kind of the payoff of her joke. For whatever reason you try it with four or with two just doesn’t work quite as well.

Transparent Richard

At the party, Richard comes up with drinks for Cordelia and Buffy. Buffy asks if there’s alcohol in the drink. And he says, “Just a smidge.” So she doesn’t want to drink it. And he says, “I understand. When I was your age I wasn’t into grown-up things either.”

This is so smarmy and it’s such a transparent attempt to manipulate Buffy. I’m glad that she doesn’t fall for it, even though it hits on exactly what has been bothering her. That she has all this adult responsibility yet is being treated as a child.

I like to think it’s because Richard is so transparent that Buffy sees what he’s doing.

Buffy Sips A Drink

Cordelia and Richard disappear, and they leave Buffy alone. She is standing there kind of awkwardly. A guy across the room lifts his glass to toast her. And she picks up her glass and sips it.

This happens around 23 minutes in. As I talked about last week and every week, usually at the Midpoint in a really well-structured story, we will see the protagonist fully commit throw caution to the wind or suffer a major reversal.

Maybe you could see this as that throwing caution to the wind because Buffy is doing something she just refused to do by sipping that drink. But it just doesn’t feel big enough to me. Because I read it as she feels really awkward and alone. She’ll take this little sip of the drink because at least someone has sort of said hello to her, and she’ll look like she’s fitting in a little more.

But I don’t see her as deciding, “Okay, I’m going to drink at this party.”

Another obnoxious fraternity guy intervenes. He yells, “New girl,” and comes charging drunkenly toward her.

Tom “Rescues” Buffy

Tom appears and kind of sweeps Buffy away and they dance.

In the meantime, Xander has snuck in a window. He looks more polished than we usually see him. He’s got his hair combed back. He’s wearing khakis and a polo shirt. And he almost blends in at this party. He just misses seeing Buffy.

About 25 minutes in, as they’re dancing Tom says how glad he is Buffy came. And we again feel like maybe he is kind of a nicer guy. Because he can clearly see that Buffy is not happy about being there. And he remembers she said she was seeing someone. She hesitates, and he says, “You’re not seeing someone?”

And Buffy says, “Someone’s not seeing me.”

So he asks why she shouldn’t be there. She’s tries to explain, but of course she can’t really. So she’s talking vaguely about responsibilities and obligations. And he says he likes that she’s mature, but there is such a thing as being too mature.

Tom Manipulates

I love this manipulation by Tom. I don’t mean I love that he does it. But I like the way this is written. Years and years ago I read a book, I want to say it was called The Gift of Fear.

If I can find it, I’ll put a link in the show notes. In it, the author (who I believe ran a security company) was giving advice about how to avoid dangerous situations and how to spot predators. One of the things he highlighted is that this is the kind of thing that a predator will do. Acknowledge that you are being smart or cautious or whatever it is (or mature). But say that you can overdo that.

So if someone you don’t really know offers to help carry something for you, you might say, “I don’t really know you.” And the person would say, “That’s good you’re really cautious about strangers. You should be. But there’s a thing such a thing as being too cautious, and then you don’t let anyone help you.” It is a manipulation technique that often works.

Here we see Tom doing that. We don’t know yet that he is one of the guys who worships Machido. He has hit on what will work with Buffy, though. Because she says, “Oh, you think I’m too mature?” So much better at it than Richard who tried to make her feel like a child.

Xander At The Party

We switch to Xander, who is joking with some girls. Richard and his friends see him. One of his friends is that same obnoxious guy who yelled at Buffy. They start yelling, “New pledge. New pledge.” Later we’ll see that the frat boys’ idea of humiliating Xander is to dress him up in wig, put lipstick on him and a stuffed bra and make him dance.

I like Xander in this episode. He puts up with this when he could just leave. But he puts up with it because he really did come to see that Buffy and Cordelia are okay. And he has not seen Buffy yet, so he is staying despite that you can tell he does not want to be here and he is uncomfortable.

Buffy walks outside onto the terrace and steps on some broken glass. She looks up, sees the boarded-up window. And she’s holding a glass shard. When Tom and Richard come out behind her, she drops the glass.

Richard hands Buffy a drink. And Tom makes a toast to maturity.

Buffy Really Throws Caution To The Wind

Buffy says, “what the hell. I’m tired of being mature.” And she downs the drink.

This is almost 27 minutes into the 42-43-minute episode. This is pretty late to see this throwing caution to the wind by the protagonist. But this to me is the moment because although she doesn’t grasp how much danger she’s putting herself in, she drinks this whole drink. And we definitely get the idea Buffy has not had much alcohol up to this point. And she definitely was going go to this party have fun, but not to drink.

So this choice I think is what would’ve been the Midpoint Commitment.

My view on this was confirmed when I listened to the Greenwalt commentary. Because he called this a crucial turning point.

He also mentioned that the network and wanted to cut some of the Xander parts of the story. Xander being treated the way he is. And that Greenwalt was very happy that he was able to fit it in.

Story Structure Flexibility

I can’t help wondering, though I do like the Xander side of the story, if that’s part of what throws off the structure here. I like this episode, but it rarely stands out for me as a particularly strong episode. And I can’t help thinking that it’s that structure issue. Where we’re seeing particularly this Midpoint Commitment coming so late.

That being said, I’m, what, giving advice to David Greenwalt who has had these amazing shows? He was often directing Buffy and writing for it. He executive produced Angel. He’s pretty much the one who ran that show which was very popular. So I don’t think he needs my advice.

Also, I’m not saying that this doesn’t work, I think that it is a good example, in fact, that whatever structure you use, there is a flexibility.

I talk about a structure I think of as super simple story structure because it works for me to look at these major points. And generally if you put them at that one quarter, one half, and three-quarter marks you keep your story moving along and you avoid that kind of sagging that can happen at the middle. A lot of writers, they know their beginning and they know their ending, and they may know a few big points on the way. But they hit the middle and feel sort of stuck and don’t know where to go.

And if you really focus on that major commitment or that major reversal for the protagonist, it ensures that your story becomes more gripping at that point, rather than flagging.

But Reptile Boy certainly shows you do not have to do it that way. There are a lot of different types of structure you can use. And clearly Greenwalt knows how to put good stories together. Stories that compel people, and that people keep coming back to.

The Bracelet

Back at the library, Willow and Giles are trying to figure out where the bracelet came from. Willow discovers there is a missing girl from Kent prep school. And we see a picture of Callie.

They also eventually realize that one girl has been missing at the same time every year. So it’s some sort of anniversary for that.

At the party, Buffy is stumbling. She’s alone, she’s near the stairs, and she seems very drunk. Much more than anyone could be from one drink. She can’t really see where she’s going. Everything is fuzzy.

She sees Xander dancing wearing that wig, but she doesn’t recognize what’s happening. She’s bumping into things, and she climbs up the stairs and passes out on a bed.

Richard comes in turns her on her back and is touching her neck.

Tom appears in the doorway and yells at him and stops him. And for a second we’re meant to think he’s a good guy. He’s stopping Richard from assaulting Buffy.

Three-Quarter Turn In Reptile Boy

Well, he is stopping him, but not because he’s concerned about Buffy. He says Buffy is not there for Richard but for the pleasure of the one they serve. He says that’s also true for the other one. And we see Cordelia on the floor.

That is 29 minutes 39 seconds in.

This to me is the next major plot point. Usually it comes around three quarters through. It generally arises from that Midpoint either commitment or reversal, but it spins the story in yet another new direction. Here, it clearly comes from Buffy downing that drink, and making that commitment. “I’m tired of being mature. I’m going to do what I want.”

Turning The Story On Its Head In Act Three

Greenwalt also commented on this point. He said in the best stories, Act Three turns the story on its head, gives us this complete flip. He says the best example is The Witch, where we learn that it’s not Amy doing these spells and these things to the other girls. It’s her mom in Amy’s body.

I agree that this is great way to look at the shift to the last part of the story. Whether you divide it like I like to do in quarters so you have this flip it on its head for that last quarter or you view it as a three-act structure.

You may be familiar with this, the three-act structure. Act One is roughly the first quarter or third of the story. Then there is a turn and Act Two spans what I would see as the middle two quarters, and then Act Three, which is that last third or that last quarter of the story.

So he’s talking about that structure and saying at the end Act Two you should have something that turns the story on its head. I really love that because I have always just thought about another new direction. Now I think I will look at it more as he does. Can you make it just turn the whole story on its head?

Tom, The True Believer

Here, there is definitely a turning on its head. Greenwalt makes the point that we find out that Tom, who seems like the nice guy, is actually scarier than the scary guy (Richard). Because Tom is a true believer.

We find out the fraternity gets all the success and money, and their alumni get it, because they keep making the sacrifices. So I read Richard as he’s doing it to get the benefits. But Tom seems like he really believes in Machida. He wants all the benefits, but he also is truly devoted.

Willow Keeps Buffy’s Secret

At the library, Giles is telling Willow they need to call Buffy. Willow says no. Remember, Buffy’s sick and her mom is sick.

But when they find out about more girls missing Giles is more determined to call Buffy. He wants to know where was that bracelet found. Willow says, “Call Angel. He’ll know. He was with Buffy.”

So she is still keeping Buffy’s secret. We see her feeling more and more kind of frantic about it and struggling to come up with how to do it.

Back at the frat house, we see Xander being thrown out. They give them his clothes, but they throw him out the door, make fun of him some more.

Buffy Became Vulnerable

In the basement, Buffy and Cordelia are awake. But they’re chained up next to Callie. Greenwalt commented that it’s pretty cheesy having girls chained up in the basement, but it’s a very classic B movie trope.

Buffy tells Cordelia that those drinks were drugged.

31 minutes in we see a ritual with three stones in a bag. The frat boys are pulling them out. At first it seems like maybe they’re going to choose one of the girls. But then it’s clear that it’s just what order they’ll be sacrificed in. Buffy figures out that some sort of demon is going to come to them. There’s this, I guess, it’s like a pit towards the back of the wall. And Cordelia is worried about being thrown into it.

A Fuzzy Three-Quarter Mark

This comes at the actual three-quarter point of the story. So you could see this as the Three-Quarter Turn, but I do think that happened when Buffy passed out on the bed. Because that’s when she became so vulnerable. That’s what arose from that commitment she made to down that whole drink, and it’s what puts her in this position where she cannot fight the way she normally could. Not only to protect herself but to protect these two other girls. And I believe it’s the only way these frat boys could ever have gotten an advantage over Buffy.

So what happens in this basement comes out of that and is part of that turn.

Though if you argued that the real turn is that it turns out there sacrificing them to the demon, that does switch us from dealing with the frat boys to dealing with this demon. We did, however, as the audience know about some sort of demon worship all along. Even though Buffy didn’t know it.

So this is another example to me of where the structure in the story is just a little bit fuzzy. It’s not as clear a turning point as we sometimes see. But we do see definitely that there is an escalation of tension, conflict, and danger.

Raising The Stakes

The stakes have to become higher and higher in whatever story structure you use.

Generally, you’ll start out with conflict. And whether it’s the same conflict that escalates or you have increasingly serious conflicts, you are good to see that increasing tension, increasing danger, throughout the story. There may be some ups and downs. There are moments where you have comic relief or you give your characters a little bit of a break. But overall when you look at it, if you were to graph out the conflicts, the line should be going on a diagonal and going up.

And that is happening here. Because now we have these three girls chained. This demon is going to arise. And Buffy’s in this position where she is weakened.

Calling Out Angel

At the library, Giles has called Angel. Angel is there in person. He tells them that Buffy found the bracelet in the cemetery near the fraternity house.

Here is where Willow finally tells Buffy’s secret. Because now she has to protect Buffy. And she says Buffy’s there and she went there with Cordelia.

Giles says, “She lied to me?” and Willow says, “Well –”

Angel says, “Did she have a date?”

Willow kind of hesitates and then she gets mad at both of them. And says Buffy only went there because Angel brushed her off. And she turns to Giles and tells him that he is pushing Buffy too hard. Yes, she’s the chosen one, but he’s killing her with all the pressure. She’s sixteen going on forty.

And then Willow turns back to Angel and says, in a great quote, “And you. I mean, you’re going live forever and you don’t have time for a cup of coffee?” Then she says, “Okay, I don’t feel any better, and we still have to help Buffy.”

Greenwalt said he loved seeing the side of Willow. That he always enjoys being able to show a new aspect of the character that we know well. And we see her getting angry and really telling off Giles and Angel. Telling them things that they need to hear.

The Team Goes To The Fraternity House

They go to the fraternity house and run into Xander. He is wearing one of the monk-like robes. He found it in the trash.

Just before that we had a really nice moment where he was walking and grumbling to himself about how one day he’d have money and prestige and on that day those guys would still have more. And then he saw Cordelia’s car. (She has Queen C on her license plate, which I love.”

So he stayed around. He looked in the windows. And he tells us he saw the guys in robes in the basement, or heading for the basement. He put the robe on thinking it will get him back into the house.

Angel vamps out, he’s ready to fight. And I love that Xander looks at him and expresses admiration for him and respect. It’s really nice to see that because he is been so petty and jealous about Angel. And I love seeing him realizing, hey, this is someone we want on our team.

Fighting The Frat

Xander’s monk robe does get the guys inside to open up the door. He punches the first one he sees. It hurts his hand, but he got a good punch in. And there is fighting among all of them. Giles also is fighting.

There’s a funny moment where Xander is just wailing on the big obnoxious guy and yelling something like, “This is for the lipstick, and this is for the bra, and this is for the last sixteen years of my life.”

In the basement, a giant snake demon has risen from that pit. Buffy tries to distract him from Cordelia. Tom tells her she can’t speak to Machida. No woman is allowed to speak to him. Buffy finally breaks the chains.

Upstairs Willow is yelling at everyone something like, “Snake. Basement. Buffy.” Because Xander, Giles, and Angel have all got a little too absorbed in that fight with the frat boys. They start running down the stairs.

The Climax: Buffy Fights Tom And The Demon Snake

In the basement, Buffy has freed herself. Tom is fighting her. He’s got a sword, and he saying he’s gonna serve Buffy to the demon in pieces. Buffy tells him, “Tom, you talk too much.” She defeats him, but the snake still has Cordelia.

Buffy uses the sword to sever the demon snake from the rest of his tail. And he falls to the ground.

So our climax started with the fight when the demon arose and Buffy struggled to free herself. And it played out through her both confronting Tom, who is the one who brought her into this, and the demon itself and slaying it.

Falling Action

Falling Action wraps up whatever we have left hanging from our plot.

So first we have Cordelia and a little bit of comedy. She says, “You did it. You saved me.” She runs toward Buffy. Except Angel has come down the stairs. Cordelia isn’t thanking Buffy, she’s thanking Angel. And she hugs him. Then she says, “You guys. I just hate you guys. The weirdest things happen when you’re around.” And she tells Tom he’s going to jail for “fifteen thousand years.”

Mixed Feelings About Cordelia

This is where I still get my mixed feelings for Cordelia. Because on the one hand, this whole episode, (and Greenwalt mentions this) another theme in it is men sacrificing women to maintain their control and enhance their power. And we have Cordelia still buying into this. She is the one who wanted to go to the frat party in the first place. She is all about achieving prosperity. And Cordelia seems pretty prosperous already. But achieving prosperity by getting this frat boy. Now she is saved, and she attributes it to Angel, who has done nothing but walk down the stairs.

And yet I do love that she turns to Tom and says you’re going to jail for fifteen thousand years. I really love that.

I also would give Cordelia a tiny bit of a pass because she was quite traumatized. Maybe she didn’t really see what happens. So maybe she does think that Angel, Giles, and Willow burst in and saved the day. Probably not though.

When You Can State The Moral Of The Story

The really emotional Falling Action here, and I so love it, is Buffy and Giles. Buffy says something like, “I told one lie. I had one drink.” And she’s looking very sheepish.

Giles says, “Yes and you were very nearly devoured by a giant demon snake. The words ‘let it be a lesson to you’ are a tad redundant at this juncture.”

I think that has to be my quote of the episode. It is yet another favorite Giles quote.

In the commentary Greenwalt also noted this. And he said, yes, it is outright stating the theme or the moral of the episode. But he doesn’t mind doing that if it has been earned emotionally.

I think that is such a great point because normally I don’t like when we get a story and then the writers have one of the characters tell us what it means. Here, though, I think it works for the exact reason that Greenwalt said. Because we have earned it emotionally. We’ve seen Buffy go through this, and Giles saying it seems so very true to his character and their relationship.

Also, the other reason I think it works here is that line is not the end of it. That is not the only lesson from this. Because Buffy says she’s sorry, and Giles says he is sorry, too.

Buffy And Giles Reconnect

This is a huge turning point for Giles and Buffy. He tells her he drives her so hard because he knows what she has to face. But he’s not going to be so demanding in the future. He’s not going to order her around. That he is been doing that too much, so he says he’ll just do an inordinate amount of nudging.

It is the perfect parenting sort of reaction. I know Giles is not really her dad but he is taking that role, and he could just be angry. And it’s a normal thing because you fear for that person you love after they have been in danger. They’ve almost died, and you’re so afraid. It’s like when you see a kid run into the street and the parent gets them back and yells at the child.

And a lot of that is coming from that fear of what could have happened. So Giles could have reacted that way. Instead, he didn’t just scold Buffy and point out what happened.

Giles Learns And Grows

He also examined himself. He examined his role and whether the way he was treating her contributed to this. And he grasped that the way he’d been handling the relationship was going to cause harm to Buffy. Basically, that Willow was right. He is driving her too hard. She can’t be nothing but the Slayer. Buffy is a person who needs to have more in her life.

Giles to some extent has certainly recognized that before. But here he really sees that his desire to protect her and help her can be counterproductive. And that he can’t keep behaving that way.

I love that he is willing to admit that he made a mistake. And to tell Buffy that, and tell her he will change.

Cordelia And Jonathan At The Bronze

At the Bronze, the boy from Inca Mummy Girl, the one the mummy lured into the back and was going to suck the life out of, is a getting a cappuccino. He brings it to Cordelia. She chides him a bit because it is not quite perfect. It doesn’t have the extra foam. So he goes back to get it.

She says, “Thank you, Jonathan.” So we find out his name. And she tells her friends that young men are the only way to go.

Angel, Buffy, Frat Fallout

At a table, Xander is reading the paper. All the fraternity boys (in an example of very speedy justice) have been sentenced to consecutive life sentences. Also, the past fraternity members who were very wealthy are now going broke. Their corporations are losing profits. There are boardroom suicides. So we know that they were successful because of all the sacrifices.

And then we get such a fantastic quote.

Xander: Starve a snake, lose a fortune. I guess the rich really are different.

Willow then asks if Buffy has heard from Angel and says how upset he was when he thought Buffy was in danger. Xander says, “Does every conversation we have have to come around to that freak?” Then he sees Angel has walked up and he says to him, “How you doing?”

I really like this Xander. I like that he is still a little snarky about Angel. But he’s not hiding that from Angel. He is willing to say it right up front, even when he sees Angel there, but he also is sort of accepting Angel as part of the picture. As part of the group.

Angel says to Buffy that he noticed they serve coffee here and maybe she’d like to go out for coffee sometime.

She says, yeah, sometime, she’ll let him know, and walks away. And that is the end of the episode.

Next Week

There is some major foreshadowing here that I will talk about in the Spoilers, so I hope that you will stay tuned for that. If you have not heard enough points about story structure, check out this free story structure template.

Also, if you prefer audio can ask at your local library for them to check out for you Super Simple Story Structure: A Quick Guide To Plotting And Writing Your Novel by L.M. Lilly. Or you can find it anyplace you normally by audiobooks, Including Audible.

If you’re not sticking around for Spoilers, thank you so much for listening and I hope to see you next Monday.

Spoilers In Reptile Boy



And we’re back for Spoilers.

Xander’s Future Work

When Cordelia makes that comment about “I just know your pizza delivery career will take you so many exciting places,” it does foreshadow the struggles that Xander will have later on. Unlike his friends, he doesn’t go to college. We see him in a variety of jobs. I don’t know if he ever delivers pizzas, but he drives an ice cream truck. He tries selling protein bars. He does a number of things trying to figure out what he can do to make a living and to get out of his parents’ basement.

It is such a scathing comment from Cordelia. The way she delivers it. And that also foreshadows that Xander will feel that he doesn’t quite fit in with his friends anymore when they go to college and he is not there. He struggles to figure out what his path is.

The other Spoilers are mostly just a lot of fun.

Snake Monsters And Alcohol

This snake monster is one of many demon snakes that we will see in Buffy. Also lizards that look like snakes. Including the Mayor in Season Three will turn into a giant snake demon. So it’s sort of fun to see that right from so early in the series.

Also, this clearly foreshadows other episodes about the evils of alcohol, particularly one of my least favorites, Beer Bad. Which, like all the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes, has some great moments. But unlike all the Buffy episodes, It’s one that I almost never want to rewatch. Usually when I do, I still find it fun, but it is quite heavy-handed with the “alcohol bad” message.

Reptile Boy is a sort of an early version about how bad it is to drink.

History Majors And Defaults

I noticed something that made me think early on with Tom. When he says he’s a history major. Well, who else of the guys that Buffy becomes interested in is a history major, but Parker Abrams? Who is such a jerk. Also a frat boy. While as far as I know he did not worship the demon snake monster, he treats Buffy terribly.

It makes me wonder if somebody in the writers room had something against history majors. Or is it just one of those default things that comes to mind.

I think we all have that as writers. Things that we put in for backgrounds of characters and don’t always realize that we are repeating them for particular kind of character.

I just found it kind of fun that Tom, the supposed nice guy, is also kind of who Parker pretends to be. Nice and kind of funny and self-deprecating. And they’re both history majors.


Of course, the biggest foreshadowing is Jonathan. Greenwalt in the commentary said that Danny Strong, who plays Jonathan, was a great comedic actor and he was a lot of fun to work with. So after the first time they kept asking themselves as writers where else could they use the character of Jonathan so that they could have Danny back.

I also looked up Danny Strong and Jonathan on Wikipedia and here is what Strong said about the character development. He said he initially auditioned for the role of Xander, but he lost out to Nicholas Brendan. He appeared in the unaired Buffy the Vampire Slayer pilot in a bit part. And he said: “I think everyone is sort of like Jonathan. Either they’re like Jonathan or they’re trying to cover up their Jonathan qualities.”

So that is it for the Spoilers and for this episode. Thank you so much for listening.

I hope you will come back next Monday when we talk about Halloween.

The podcast Buffy and the Art of Story is a production of Spiny Woman LLC copyright 2020.