This week on the podcast Buffy and the Art of Story: Ted (Season 2 Episode 11 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer):
This episode covers (1) how a seemingly throwaway episode foreshadows key developments for the entire series; (2) many metaphors that might not mix so well; and (3) dialogue that illustrates what works in Buffy's relationship with Angel.
As always, the discussion is spoiler-free, except at the end (with plenty of warning).
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Episode Transcript for Ted
Today we're talking about Season Two Episode Eleven. Ted.
What It’s About
It's a seemingly throwaway one-off episode that foreshadows key developments for much of the run of Buffy.
It also defines the limits on Buffy's actions regarding humans, uses a lot of metaphors that might or might not mix very well, and has some wonderful Buffy and Angel dialogue that shows what works in their relationship.
Also, having been so familiar with guest star John Ritter as a comedy actor, it was really interesting to me seeing him in this ominous role.
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.
Ted was written by David Greenwalt and Joss Whedon and directed by Bruce Seth Green.
I am so excited to talk to you about it. It generally isn't one that I feel like fans particularly love. But as I rewatched, I was struck by how much was great in this episode.
Little Conflict To Start
So we start with, in a way, some non-conflict. Usually we’re starting with conflict. And there is a bit of mild conflict here in a joking way.
Because Buffy, Willow, and Xander are walking down the sidewalk at night and arguing about who had the real power. The Captain or Tennille. For those of you who don't remember, that was a singing duo.
Buffy has no idea who they are, but she's enjoying the quiet in Sunnydale.
As the characters talk, we get a little quick background that Spike and Drusilla are presumably dead. And the Order of Turaka has been called off. Essentially, we’re told that all's right in Sunnydale, at least temporarily.
But then we do very quickly get conflict at Buffy's house.
Surprise At Home
The front door is ajar. Buffy tells Willow and Xander to wait and goes in alone. There's a crash from the kitchen, and Joyce saying “No!”
Buffy runs into the kitchen. Joyce is kissing a man Buffy has never met. This is John Ritter – we’ll find out his name is Ted. The two break apart, and Joyce says she's sorry for scaring Buffy. She just broke a wine glass.
I’m not sure that timing works given how fast Buffy could get into the kitchen. But I'll go with it.
Ted is very cheery, and he says, “Hi.” We’re two minutes in and Buffy says, “Hi.”
And she is so suspicious. I love her expression. She's kind of looking at him sideways. And we cut to the credits at 2 minutes 58 seconds.
After The Credits
Ted is putting something in the oven. Willow and Xander are helping a little bit in the background. And Buffy and Joyce are talking.
Joyce says that isn't the way she wanted to introduce Buffy. she met Ted at the gallery. He came in to sell her software. She's been seeing him and looking for the right moment to introduce Ted and Buffy.
In the background Willow squeals in delight when Ted says he'll give her software upgrade for free. Xander raves about the mini pizzas Ted has made. Buffy says no thanks to the mini pizzas.
The Story Spark In Ted
Joyce says Buffy, “I really want you to be okay with this.” At 4 minutes 37 seconds in, Ted intervenes and says, “Beg to differ. We really want you to be okay with this.”
Buffy says she's okay but clearly she is not. I see that as our Story Spark. Usually that spark or Inciting Incident comes about 10% into a story. And I think I've been saying that the episodes are 42-43 minutes but they often are closer to 44. It's like 42 to 44 minutes.
And this one is right about 44 minutes, so this is right about 10%.
As to her initial reaction to Ted and his inserting himself, his use of “we want you to be okay” – Buffy just met this guy. And already he is talking about himself and Joyce as a couple and almost as a parenting unit. I feel like that does set off the conflict between him and Buffy and the particular way that it plays out.
And we get this confirmed pretty much in the next scene.
Vampires Stand In For Ted
Buffy is with Giles in the park. He’s sitting on a bench while Buffy fights a vampire. She is beating it up pretty badly. Giles keeps trying to say, “Buffy, I think it's time – you can stake him now – ”
And she just keeps beating on him and finally kills him. Giles has already sat down and I think just started reading a book. So he asks her if everything’s okay.
And she says yes. But she goes on this wonderful rant about vampires and says everything's fine and then they come and kill people. And here's a quote:
Buffy: And they take over your house and they start making these stupid little mini pizzas and everyone's like all look, a mini pizza!
But Giles cuts her off.
Giles: I believe the subtext here is rapidly becoming text.
That may be yet another of my favorite all-time Giles quotes, Buffy, though still doesn't tell him what's wrong.
Ted At School
At school, Xander argues with Buffy. He says Ted's a Master chef and everything about him is great. And he teases Buffy about having parental issues. She insists it's more than that. She is going on about him when he appears behind her. He’s at the school updating the guidance software. He invites the three friends to play mini golf on Saturday with him and Joyce.
Buffy says they can't. They have this thing to do, and Willow backs her up. “Thing. Oh, right, that thing.”
But Xander says they can do that thing anytime. They’re in.
Giles Goes To See Jenny
We switch to Giles. He has gone to Jenny's classroom with a flimsy excuse about some textbooks. Really to ask again how she is. You get the sense he's been doing this a lot.
She says she's doing better, but she still not sleeping well. And she knows he means well by asking – And he says, “You need time.” She says, “Or possibly space.” And Jenny says to him, “You make me feel bad that I don't feel better. I don't want that responsibility.”
I really empathize with both of them here. First, I feel bad for Giles. He so much wants to make up to her what happened. Due to his actions she became possessed with this demon. At the same time, I really feel for Jenny. I think this is a very common thing when someone is grieving. And she is in a sense grieving over what happened to her and trying to deal with this.
I remember after my parents were killed in a very tragic way, and it was an extremely difficult time. On the one hand, people were wonderful. I was so struck by how caring and kind the people around me were, and the village authorities were where my parents had lived.
At the same time, as time passed I really felt this pressure that people needed me to feel better so that they didn't feel bad. One of my nieces and I talked about this a few times. That feeling that there's not much room in our culture for grief. For the idea that when something really traumatic happened that maybe it's not even healthy to just try to rush past it and feel all happy again or be yourself again.
Maybe the self you have is going to be different. You are not going to go back to being that same person. And it often makes the people around us uncomfortable.
I feel like that's what Jenny is saying. Something like, look, I don't feel better yet, and it's not my responsibility to feel better so that you can stop feeling bad.
On a less personal note, this is a great example of two characters where we really see both their points of view. And there isn't at that moment a real way for them to come together. And you can see that after Giles leaves, Jenny feels bad about him pushing him away.
Angel Helps Buffy Sort Through Her Feelings
Now switch to Angel and Buffy. So another relationship. And I really love the scene between the two of them because we finally see them interacting.
I think we got a little of this in the end of Halloween. We see them really having a good relationship where Buffy is able to share her feelings. And Angel is able to be supportive and also help her get a different perspective.
She's going on and on about Ted. And how her mother says this about Ted, and that about Ted, and does every conversation have to be about Ted?
And Angel in kind of a low-key joking way says, “So are we gonna talk about anything other than Ted?”
Buffy says, “Okay I get it.” She kind of smiles and says she doesn't need another man in her life or a new man in her life. And Angel says, well, maybe her mom does. And he talks about loneliness. Buffy half smiles and says she gets it, but does it have to be Ted?
Angel asks her is there someone else, a guy out there that she thinks would be better. And kind of sheepishly says, “My dad.”
Angel just looks at her and listens. And she says, “I know that's not going to happen.”
You see this nice relief where Buffy is a little more able to live with the idea that yeah, her dad’s not coming back. And maybe her mom does want to have someone else in her life.
I love that Angel was both sympathetic and helped her sort through her feelings. But he didn't ever say to her “you're having parental issues” the way that Xander did.
Time For Mini Golf
About 11 minutes in, everyone is at mini golf. Ted says something about Buffy's grades, being low. And Buffy is upset that her mom told him about it. Joyce says it's because Ted cares. He wants to know all about Buffy.
Buffy swings too hard at the golf ball. It flies off the course. Joyce is all “we won't count it, it's just mini golf,” but Ted says “the rules are the rules.” And “what we teach her is what she takes out in the world.”
Which if I were Buffy that would get me pretty mad, too. She's irked but she says fine, she'll go hit from the rough. And she walks around the back. No one can see from that side of the hole. She picks up the ball and just kind of taps it in and says, “I got a Hole in Two.”
She didn't see Ted, who has come around behind her. He says, “Beg to differ.”
Buffy shrugs and says fine, just add it on her score, it’s just a game. But he says, “I'm not wired that way” and goes on and on about the rules and doing things right. And he’s slapping his golf club against his leg as he's talking, punctuating his words. And he says, “I don't stand for that malarkey in my house.”
Ted Threatens Buffy At The One-Quarter Twist
Here I think we get to the One-Quarter Twist, that first major plot turn that spins the story in a new direction and comes from outside the protagonist. It's a little bit beyond the one-quarter point timing-wise in the episode. It's about 13 minutes 20 seconds in. But it definitely spins the story.
Buffy says well, it's a good thing they're not in his house.
And Ted says, “Do you want me to slap that smartass mouth of yours?” Then he spins around and says, “Who's up for dessert?”
That quick flip from menace to cheerfulness – I think John Ritter does it so very well. And it's unnerving. We know he was serious, and Buffy knows he was serious.
So this is a turn, because it's the first time we see that it's not just Buffy having parental issues. It's not just the sort of less-than-ideal way that she met Ted.
The others crowd around him and his picnic basket exclaiming over his cookies, and Buffy stands apart in the kitchen.
Something Ted Didn’t Make
The next morning Joyce offers Buffy a sticky bun that Ted made. And Buffy says can they have something Ted didn't make?
Joyce says, “I don't expect you to love him like I do.” But she does expect Buffy to treat him .
And Buffy says, “You love him?” Joyce says that just slipped out, and then goes on to say men don't exactly beat down the door of a single parent.
Which is kind of interesting because she seems so excited about Ted, and yet in the next breath it's almost like she said, well, I don't have a lot of choices. So he is the best out there out of that lack of choices.
Buffy echoes that single parent line, finishes it with Joyce. So we know this is something she says a lot.
Joyce’s Mom Skills
This whole scene – I have talked about the great things I love about Joyce. But these kinds of the scenes are where I understand when people feel Joyce fails as a parent. Because I understand her saying that men aren't running to go out with a single woman with a teenaged daughter.
If you want to say that to her friends, that’s one thing. But to say to your daughter is really saying, hey, it's your fault, it's all because of you.
Then it gets worse. Buffy tells Joyce that Ted threatened to slap , and Joyce says “He did no such thing.” She doesn't even consider what Buffy says.
And though we find out there are reasons for that, it’s still really hard to watch.
Joyce Takes Ted’s Side
Joyce then goes on to say, “Ted told me what happened. He caught you cheating, didn’t he?” And she says, “But he didn't say anything to anyone else, did he? And I thought that was pretty decent of him.”
Buffy kind of stutters, and when Joyce says that about how he didn't tell anyone else Buffy is saying she doesn’t think that's the point. Which of course it's not. The fact that he didn't tell the others doesn't erase threatening to slap her.
But this shows Ted is this Master of manipulation. He knew Buffy would tell Joyce. So he got out ahead of it. He told the story and framed it in a way to set Joyce up not to believe Buffy.
Which is no excuse for Joyce had there not been other forces at work here. The way she just rejects what Buffy says is really awful.
But Joyce is surprisingly cheery and she says will Ted told her Buffy just needs time to come around. And she's having him over for dinner that night, so Buffy needs to be home on time.
Buffy, looking really discouraged, leaves. Joyce finishes the sticky bun, saying to herself, “This is so delicious.”
These hints about food are woven in. And I feel like it's fairly subtle. I do not think that I saw this the first time through. The excitement. Willow squealing about in delight, and it's after they ate the mini pizzas. And then at the golf course they’re also all excited about the cookies.
And here Joyce – even if she didn't believe Buffy, which obviously she didn't. But let's say this was a real situation. There's no other influence. She doesn't believe Buffy. But she would have to be troubled about this conversation. And yet she's just like, “Great sticky buns.”
So I do think that is there but not overplayed. It was fairly subtle.
It does go to one of the metaphors I see here, which is the idea of being in love as this feeling of ecstasy that colors everything you say and do. Because we’ll find out later that these things Ted is making have something in them that both kind of tranquilizes people and that Willow says has something in common with the drug ecstasy.
So it seems, in part, this metaphor is meant to be like Joyce is in love. Swept up in this wave of passion so she doesn't even hear what Buffy says. Which makes me more troubled about Joyce. Because is this suggesting that this is how Joyce would be if she were truly, deeply swept away and attracted to and feeling in love with this guy.
Back at school, Buffy enlists Willow's help to research Ted.
And I love Willow. She is such a great friend. Her dialogue and her expression tells us that she sort of agrees with Xander. She thinks that maybe Buffy is having issues just because Ted's dating her mom. And I can't remember. I don't know if it's clear that Buffy tells them that he threatened her.
But regardless, Willow may think that it is just the issues Buffy's having. Yes she is right there to help. She is going to help her friend. She is just the best friend.
So 17 minutes in Willow has found out where Ted works. And Buffy is in this cubicle farm. Ted is on the phone selling software. He has his back to her. She's kind of hiding, and he is on the phone.
The Best Sales Guy
Ted's not overly pushy. He points out the benefits. He turns the weaknesses, how expensive the software is, into a strength. After he makes another sale marks on the board, he goes to lunch.
Another guy comes up and Buffy pretends to be a temp there for the day. The guy’s grumbling about Ted, who has always been top salesperson. And he says, “Nobody beats the machine.” Also something about at least Ted is taking some time off for the wedding. Which he tells Buffy is in two months.
Buffy checks out Ted's desk, sees a photo of Joyce there. When she takes it out of the frame, it is a photo of her and Joyce, but her photo has been folded in the back so it's hidden.
Dinner With Ted
At 19 minutes in we are at dinner. Ted says a very passive-aggressive grace about how hopefully God will help the people in this house to be more hard-working and more honest.
Buffy won't eat. So again we get this woven throughout. Earlier, Buffy not eating his cookies and mini pizzas because she doesn't like Ted. And here because she's upset, so she's just sitting there not eating.
And she says, “are you engaged?”
Joyce says No right away. Not like she would never consider it, but just like surprised, like where would Buffy get that idea. But Ted says he hopes someday soon if things go well. And how would Buffy feel about that?
He encourages her to share her feelings. And Buffy says, “I’d feel like killing myself.”
Joyce Reacts Badly And Ted Pretends
More really bad Joyce. Because rather than listening to these feelings or being concerned that her daughter said this, she gets mad at Buffy. And sees it as Buffy just trying to make trouble.
Ted says no, “we asked her to share her feelings.”
When Buffy asks to be excused, Joyce tells her she can be excused and go to her room.
After she's gone, Ted says he didn't get to be top salesman by giving up.
We next see Buffy in the park in the dark. She's swinging on the swings with her stake, saying, “Here, vampires.” But there aren't any. She comes home, climbing in through her window.
Now we get to the Midpoint of the episode. We’re about 21 minutes 37 seconds in. This is all slightly before the Midpoint, but we have two things here that happen that spread across that the few minutes in the middle of the episode.
First, we get a major reversal. Which is one thing we see in a well-structured story, this major reversal for the protagonist. And after that we get a commitment, which is the other thing that drives a strong story forward.
Here, as in some stories, we get both. In this episode it's really interesting because that commitment also triggers another reversal.
So instead of talking in the abstract, let me go into it.
The Reversal: Ted Threatens To Expose Buffy’s “Delusions”
When Buffy gets into her room, Ted is waiting for her. And he has read her diary. She says, “How dare you?” But he asks how different is it than snooping in his workplace.
He asks her, “What exactly is a Vampire Slayer?”
She tells him to get out. And he says, “Or what? You’ll slay me?” And he goes on to say, “psychiatrists have a word for what she is – delusional.” From now on, she'll do what he says because otherwise he'll tell Joyce and show Joyce the diary.
And Buffy will spend her best dating years in a mental institution.
This is a little bit of another metaphor here. This idea that young women get put into psych wards or mental institutions at times because they are not complying with what society expects of them.
Buffy tries to stop Ted from leaving her room and taking the diary. He punches her really hard, knocking her down. She recovers and says, “I was so hoping you'd do that” and punches back.
I see this is Buffy's Midpoint Commitment. This is where the protagonist commits to the quest and goes all in. Because she does. They fight on. The momentum takes them into the hall.
He again hits her hard enough that she is on the floor. And he then grabs her and lifts her up to hit her again. Of course, Joyce comes out just as Buffy has managed to hit Ted back and get the upper hand. Buffy then kicks Ted. His momentum is pushing him down the hall and he's moving toward the stairs.
Joyce is yelling at Buffy to stop. Buffy kicks one last time.
This is 23 minutes in and Ted goes tumbling down the stairs and is motionless at the bottom.
Joyce runs down, checks his pulse, and says, “You killed him.”
So we see Buffy's commitment then leads to an even more major reversal because no matter how awful Ted was, to kill him is a huge thing. And also that her mom did not see what began that fight. So it's completely out of context for Joyce.
We cut to the commercial. Talk about a hook.
When we come back, the police are are taking Ted away. And Detective Stein asks what happened. Joyce says Ted fell, and the detective asks how.
Buffy says, “I hit him. I hit him.”
And she sounds really dazed. I like that Joyce was not going to say that. So at least now she is trying to protect her daughter. And that Buffy tells the truth. She's not going to sit there and have her mom lie.
At the station, the detective interviews Buffy alone. We can tell she's somewhat disoriented. He's asking questions.
It's a wonderful scene. If you haven't watched the episode lately I would at least go back and watch that. Because the detective's been kind of low-key in his questions. But he's trying to get the story. And the way he does it, Buffy ends up a little more confused about when Ted threatened her. She says he hit her. The detective asks where, and she shows him her .
And he says something like, “Well, it couldn't have been too hard. There's no mark.” It doesn't seem accusatory. It's more like a comment. And Buffy says, “I don't bruise easily.”
So he asks, “You’ve been hit before.” And she says yes. And he says, “But not by Ted?” She says no. And she starts getting upset and is saying she didn’t mean to do it. I think she starts to cry.
And the detective says that he's a big guy and he believes her.
Then out outside the office he tells Joyce. basically the same thing. That Buffy says that that Ted hit her. If that's true, everything will be okay. But he says, “We're not bringing any charges right now.” So there's just enough – he's not threatening, but there's just enough to leave both Joyce and Buffy uneasy. And to have this hanging over Buffy because the detective does say they need to look into it further.
Showing Buffy’s Feelings Of Guilt
At school the next day, Buffy is in baggy overalls, a big contrast to normally how we see her in school. In clothes that were very fashionable at the time and cute, and that made her look great. Now she's in his overalls. Not that Sarah Michelle Gellar ever looks bad, but it is not at all Buffy’s style.
And she's kind of slouching. She says she had to come to school. Her mom won’t look at her.
Xander asks what was he, what kind of monster, assuming that Buffy must have killed Ted because he was a monster. And Buffy says no, he was human. Willow says she's sure it wasn't Buffy's fault, Ted started it.
Buffy says, “That defense only works in six-year-old court, Will.”
Buffy Draws A Line
Willow and Xander are both shocked about the mention of court. Buffy also says she's the Slayer she had no right to hit Ted like that.
I feel like in some ways her feelings of guilt are clouding her memory of what happened. Because Ted hit her really hard twice. Enough to knock her down. So she was defending herself. Yet at the same time, she's not wrong in the sense of she did say “I was hoping you'd do that.” She wanted a reason to fight Ted. And now she's saying basically, “Look, I knew I had the superstrength. I was not right to do that.”
So I think she's drawing a line between she could defend herself, but did that go beyond what she needed for self defense.
Different Rules For Buffy?
Xander tries to reassure her and says he knows her. She'd never intentionally hurt anyone unless – and Buffy says unless he was dating her mom? She's upset. She heads for the library, but there she finds out that the cops talked to Giles to ask about her behavior. They are now talking to someone else at the school.
Giles is at a loss, and Buffy leaves.
Xander, Willow, and Cordelia gather in the library with Giles. Xander is saying how awful Ted must have been for Buffy to kill him. And Cordelia says, “I thought you liked him.”
Xander says, “I sometimes like things that are not good for me.” Looking right at her.
Willow is researching. She's frustrated and finding nothing. And we get some great quotes.
Cordelia: It's not fair, Buffy's like a Superman or something. Shouldn't there be different rules for her?
Willow: Sure in a fascist society.
Cordelia: Right. Why can't we have one of those?
I love that Cordelia's sticking up for Buffy, even if she might not quite grasp the philosophical or ethical implications of that. (More on that in the Spoilers.)
A Major Turn
Giles says that Buffy killed a human, and the guilt will be overwhelming for her.
And we get another great Cordelia quote and Giles’ response.
Cordelia” I guess you should know since you helped raise that demon that killed that guy that time.
Giles: Yes, let's do bring that up as often as possible.
Giles is putting together weapons. He says he'll patrol that night as there's no Slayer until Buffy is herself again.
Willow is still frustrated and trying to find answers. Xander, who is eating a cookie he found (I think in Willow's backpack) says don't worry, it'll all be fine. They’ll work it out. Suddenly cheerful.
This seems a bit like our Three-Quarter Turn. We are 30 minutes in, and Willow grabs that cookie. We can see by her expression that she knows there's something wrong with it. So it's the first time our friends find a solid clue that there is really something wrong with Ted.
Willow puts together in her mind all this good cheer and the food.
A New Direction
I also thought it was the Three-Quarter Turn because, as it should, it spins the story in a new direction. Now our friends the food to focus on. They have a solid clue, and they are getting go forward and help Buffy.
Also, it does come out of the reversal that put Buffy and Ted directly in opposition. And from Buffy's commitment and killing Ted, which means our friends have to find answers.
Before Buffy killed Ted, sure, they (Willow in particular) wanted to help Buffy because Buffy was upset. But they didn't have that driving reason. Now that Buffy might be faced with a court trial and murder charges, they are driven to do these things.
All made of that it look like that major plot turn that comes out of that Midpoint and turns the story yet again.
Joyce And Buffy, Jenny And Giles
At home, Joyce is cleaning out cabinets. Buffy tries to say she didn't mean it and apologize. But Joyce says she can't talk now, and more or less tells Buffy to go to her room.
In the graveyard, Giles is patrolling. Jenny startles him. She saw his car and she wanted to apologize to him. He's very uneasy and wants to stop her. And she says let her talk. She feels bad about how they left it, and she knows how bad he feels about putting her in danger before.
And Giles says, “Imagine how I must feel now.” Because a vampire is behind them.
Back to Buffy, we’re about 33 minutes in. She's in her room, and she seems restless and sad. She goes to the window to climb out. It's nailed shut. She's talking to herself under her breath. She thinks her mom nailed it shut. And she says, “This day can't get any worse.”
A Surprise Three-Quarter Turn In Ted
From behind her, Ted says, “Beg to differ.”
This I think is the real Three-Quarter Turn. It's a bit of a surprise, which I think is nice. We thought we had a turn. And now there is the real plot turn that truly shifts the story. Because Ted is back and there's something about him clearly not human.
So previously we thought, okay, he's drugging everyone. There is probably something else going on. But now he is something else.
And he asks Buffy is she sorry about killing him. And she says, “What are you?”
He says he's a salesman. No matter how you put him down, a good salesman bounces back.
Part of me wonders if this continued salesman theme is part of what doesn't quite come together in this episode. At first, I was thinking it doesn't work at all. Because we've got here so far a real – not just that metaphor for the “in love” aspect, but the abusive relationship. The way Ted is charming on the surface, and everybody loves him. And then behind the scenes he's threatening Buffy. He's punishing Buffy. Her mom isn't listening. We will find out he is controlling. There are a lot of abuse metaphors here.
But then we get this salesman metaphor. And it seems weirdly comic. I was thinking it didn't really fit. Later on we’ll see that maybe it does fit.
But I thought maybe we just have one too many metaphors here. Or maybe more than one too many. So I'll get to that.
Anyway, Ted says this thing about being a salesman.
Jenny Shoots Giles
We switch back to Giles and Jenny. The vampire attacks. Jenny is struggling with the crossbow. She keeps trying to get a shot.
Giles is telling her to shoot. But I don't think she's used one before. And even if you had, Giles and the vamp are a moving target. She finally takes a shot. And of course it’s right at that moment they've spun around so Giles’ back is to her. The arrow goes into his back.
Giles, though, is so cool. He yanks out the arrow and he stakes vamp with it.
So we get a little bit of comic relief there. And a little bit of movement in our ongoing season Jenny and Giles subplot.
More About Ted
Back with Buffy and Ted. They’re fighting. He says he had to shut down for a while to get her off his back. Now he chokes Buffy. Buffy grabs this little nail file and stabs him. Sparks fly. There're flashes. And we see his skin has come up and there are wires and machinery underneath.
It’s unclear if Buffy quite gets that because he kicks her and knocks her out.
Xander, Willow, and Cordelia break into Ted's home. They went to the old school way and got paper records from somewhere in the village. Those include four marriage certificates, one from over fifty years ago.
They don't see anything in the house at first. Until Cordelia spots rug that so doesn't fit the décor. There’s a trap door underneath it.
Ted Surprises Joyce
Joyce is in her kitchen. She hears something and thinks it's Buffy and starts to apologize for not talking to Buffy earlier.
But it's Ted. Joyce is shocked. Ted claims that he was dead for six seconds and then unconscious for a day. That the medical people told him it was a miracle. She hugs him and says, “Oh my God, Buffy.”
And he tells her not to worry.
I'm happy to see that Joyce, while she's glad Ted is back, her first thought really is that they have to tell Buffy. Because Buffy is feeling so horrible about this.
Evidence Shows A Greater Threat To Joyce
At the lower level at Ted's they've gone down through this trap door. It's fifties décor. There's an old record player. There are bars on the window.
Xander opens the closet. We don't see what's inside. But he says, “Let's go.” And the others are saying but we need evidence. And he says, “We got it. His first four wives are in there.”
It builds more danger for Joyce. We already know that Ted is dangerous, particularly to Buffy. But until now it's been unclear as to Joyce. Perhaps he is not meaning to harm her.
It's still a problem, obviously, that he is homicidal towards Buffy. But as an audience we feel pretty confident Buffy will recover and can take care of herself. Now he's more direct threat to Joyce.
Do We Have To Talk About Buffy?
Ted tells Joyce what brought him back was her. The thought of her. And she says she should talk to Buffy first. I have to say, “Yay Joyce.” Maybe it was the cookies after all.
And Ted says something like, “Do we have to talk about Buffy? What about Teddy? I’m the one who died.”
Joyce says, “Sorry, I don't know what to do.”
Ted says, “Don't I always tell you what to do?”
Metaphors On The Mark
This is also where I think this abuse metaphor just starts getting so direct and so right on the mark that it loses some power. Joyce is looking troubled already.
Then Ted turns his head to the side and says something about gravy. I think I forgot to mention when he was fighting Buffy he did that when she stabbed him. He started saying all these random different things. And his head would go to the side when he did it.
Joyce tells him he needs to rest for a while. And he says – this is where it really gets obvious for the metaphor. “I think you might want to stop telling me what to do. I don't take orders from women. I'm not wired that way.”
It's such an obvious statement. I think I might have likde the story as a whole better if it were a little bit more subtle.
Here is where I started to think, though, that maybe the salesman metaphor in a way should've worked. Because throughout Ted is saying, “I didn't get to be salesman of the year by giving up.”
Also, “I don't take no for an answer” is his mantra as a salesman. I can see a little more how that fits. Because that fits with this idea of the abuser. I don't take no for an answer. I tell you what to do.
And maybe it would've worked better if they stuck with the salesman thing and didn't have him so obviously saying things like “I don't take orders from women.”
Building Toward The Climax
Back to Jenny and Giles. He is claiming he's okay. She says that she'll get him to a hospital, and then laughs and says something like, “Some night. You really know how to woo a girl back.”
Giles laughs. And then says, “Ow.” And Jenny says, “Hospital.”
So nice little comic relief there.
We are, though, in our main plot building towards the Climax.
Buffy wakes up in her room. We’re 40 minutes 25 seconds in.
Downstairs Joyce is trying different ways to distance herself from Ted. She says she wants a drink. He says they need to hit the road. Does a little turning of his head to the side, saying weird things again.
And Joyce says okay, she better pack and tries to go around him. He grabs her arm and says he already has her clothes they're your size. “They're always your size.”
And he says she left him before but he kept bringing her back.
Now we are at the Climax.
Joyce tries to pull away. He shoves her into wall and she's knocked out. Ted thinks he hears Buffy. He walks around downstairs calling to her to come out. He doesn't stand for malarkey in his house.
Buffy surprises him. She underhands him hard with a giant frying pan and says, “This house is mine.”
The frying pan is a really interesting choice. On the one hand, it's kind of cartoony. But on the other, I feel like it fits with that abuse issue. And it is Buffy taking something in the house and using it to fight back as she says, “This house is mine.”
Ted goes down. More of his skin has come off him. This time on his face.
So we see half of the human face and half like a robot. Which makes it pretty scary. Buffy strikes again. This time he's really out. And she looks very sad.
We move to the Falling Action. Joyce and Buffy are sitting on the front porch, eating chips. Joyce says, “You want to rent movie tonight? But not horror, romance, or men.”
And Buffy says she guesses they’re Thelma and Louising it again.
Thelma And Louise
If you don't remember, Thelma and Louise was a movie out around maybe a few years before Buffy started. It’s two women who are taking a road trip. It turns into a flight from the law after Louise kills a man who tried to rape Thelma outside a bar.
I have my own memory of this movie. I took a class my last semester of law school called Law And Popular Culture. It was meant to be kind of in an easy class for that last semester. It was really interesting. We explored a lot of great issues. We would watch a movie, something with lawyers about the law, and then discuss mainly the ethical issues in it. How true it was to law practice and lawyers (which is usually not at all).
And what that meant for our culture's perception of lawyers and how they behave and what they do.
Watching Thelma And Louise
We were supposed to watch Thelma and Louise.
It was the only movie the professor found that dealt with women and the law. That he couldn't find any with women lawyers. And there must've been some. But for some reason we it got dropped out, because something happened. That the semester got compressed. And I still remember that and feel like it really does show what popular culture was at the time that Buffy was airing.
Ted On The Scrap Heap
Joyce says she still thinks Ted will jump out at her, especially after what police found in his house. That's the first time I realize that apparently Buffy didn't tell Joyce that Ted was a robot. And didn't tell the police.
Buffy says, “Trust me. He's on the scrap heap.” Joyce looks at her, and she adds, “Of life.”
I’m not that clear why couldn't the police know that Ted was a robot. Unless our friends were concerned (maybe rightly) that the authorities in Sunnydale would use Ted in a bad way.
At school, Willow says the sad thing is the real Ted must have been a genius. Buffy says to her, “Tell me you didn't keep any parts.” And Willow says, “Not any big ones.”
Buffy tells her she's supposed to use her powers for good. And Willow says, “I just want to learn stuff.”
And Cordelia has another nice line: “Like how to build your own serial killer?”
Xander says let's just drop the whole topic. Buffy is happy to forget all about it.
Except that when they get to the library she looks in and through the little round windows in the doors and says, “That's it. I give up. Do I have to sound an air horn every time I walk into a room? What is it with grown ups today?”
And we see that Jenny and Giles are kissing.
That is one of the things I enjoyed in this episode. This very gradual bringing of Jenny and Giles back together.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer And Philosophy
There's no DVD commentary for this episode. Instead I went and looked at my favorite book discussing Buffy: Buffy The Vampire Slayer And Philosophy Fear And Trembling In Sunnydale edited by James B. South. I'll put a link in the show notes in case you want to check it out. There're a number of great essays in it.
Humans Have Special Status On Buffy
This is from Morality On Television: The Case Of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. This essay is by Richard Greene and Wayne Yuen. The authors talk about Ted and how Buffy killed him believing he was human because he poses a direct threat to her mother and herself.
They explore a bit the philosophical implications of that. First, I think that is part of the issue for Buffy. As I mentioned, I feel like later she reframes it in her mind and thinks that she killed Ted solely because she couldn't deal with him in her mother's life. But when you look at those scenes, he was definitely a threat to her. We see it.
Later he knocks her out completely. She didn't know he was capable of doing that, but she certainly knew he hit her hard enough to knock her down on the floor. But her guilt is so overwhelming that I think it clouds her judgment.
I also believe that on some level she did know that he was something other than human. But maybe not.
The authors go on to say that Ted poses a threat that equal in severity to the threat vampires pose. And yet Buffy is despondent when she thinks that she killed him because he was human. So later she's relieved to discover that Ted is not human but an android robot.
So they say that humans, therefore, have a special status in Buffy's moral system. This special status makes them exempt from being seriously harmed by her, even if they do harm to others.
We will see that play out throughout the series.
You’re Not Who I Thought You Were
The other essay here that talks about Ted briefly is High School Is Hell: Metaphor Made Literal In Buffy The Vampire Slayer. That's by Tracy Little.
Little comments that Season Two includes a constant theme: You are not the person I thought you were. I hadn't thought about this. But that's a really good point. We've already seen it in Inca Mummy Girl. Ampata is not at all who Xander thinks or anyone thinks. In Reptile Boy, the frat boys are not who Cordelia thinks they are or Buffy thinks they are. In Lie To Me, Buffy's old friend Ford is not who she thought.
And here, Ted clearly is not who either Joyce or – well, I guess Buffy obviously has her suspicions from the start – but he's definitely not who Joyce thinks.
And we even saw Giles in The Dark Age. Buffy doesn't recognize Giles. And when he says he’s sorry, she’s saying, “Don't be sorry, be Giles.”
The really interesting that Ted is part of this theme for the season. And I'll talk a little more in Spoilers about that.
In the end, the thematic elements are what I love about Ted. I love this beginning exploration of what does it mean if Buffy kills a human, even sort of accidentally. I do not believe she ever meant to kill Ted when she thought it was human, but she did let herself use that strength. So what does that mean?
If you are not staying for the Spoilers, I hope you will come back next week for Bad Eggs.
And we are back with Spoilers
Theme: Not Who I thought
Quickly from the High School Is Hell essay by Tracy Little. Yu are not the person I thought you were: that theme is the theme of the entire story arc, the major story arc for this season.
When Angel turns evil again it is all about that. And then it is further echoed by Giles and Buffy finding out that Jenny was sent there to keep an eye on, or track, Angel.
I didn't see it at first. But Spike’s sense of betrayal and anger at Dru when she is so enamored of Angel, and Angel is in a way taking Drusilla away from Spike. And then Drusilla’s sense of betrayal when Spike allies himself with Buffy in order to defeat Angel.
So we have this on so many levels.
The Ethics Of Killing Humans In Buffy The Vampire Slayer
And then there is more in the essay on morality in television. Where the author's comment on the ethics of killing a human. And I had been thinking this while watching Ted. Where we really see that addressed is in the Faith storyline.
When Faith accidentally kills a human, and Buffy is trying to get Faith to fess up and deal with it. Instead, Faith goes down this very dark path. And there we really dig into what that means when a Slayer kills a human being.
Giles tells us that it does happen that there are procedures for dealing with it. But by that time his faith in the counsel has been shattered, as has Buffy's. So they're not willing to go to the Council. And Faith is completely in denial.
Season Six – A Dark Time
We see it again when Buffy thinks she is killed a human in Season Six. And is ready to go to jail for it. It’s a very complex situation. Buffy is already in a very dark time. And her feelings over thinking that she killed someone take her to an even worse place. Her friends, and particularly her sister, do not understand why she would turn herself in.
Actually, I don't think her friends ever find out. But her sister – another big spoiler here, that she’ll have a sister – feel so abandoned. Dawn feels that Buffy is turning herself in just to get away. But even very early on in the show we see how seriously Buffy takes this.
The authors of Morality On Television also talk about another part of Season Six, where the human's special status to Buffy is explained more. The reasoning for it. Because when they are talking about a revenge killing – Willow killing Warren because of him having committed murder – Buffy says Willow doesn't have the right to do that. And Xander and I believe Dawn are saying Warren was horrible and he deserved it. And how is it different from demons?
But Buffy says for human evils that there is a human justice system to deal with that. She is not there to be the one who punishes people. She will stop them. But she's not going to kill them. Unlike with demons and vampires.
It’s going to be so interesting to talk about it at that time. Why those distinctions are there. I do like her point that there is a system to deal with that. It might not be perfect, but there is this process. Where for demons and vampires there is not. She is it.
The Diary And The Detective
So, other Spoilers. There are so many here.
Ted reading Buffy's diary and threatening her with a mental institution foreshadows Normal Again. There, Buffy comes to believe that she is in an institution. That her parents sent her to a psych ward when she started talking about vampires. I so would love to know if they planned that from the beginning. Or at least had that idea in their minds. Or did it just evolve organically from Ted makes this threat and later they pick up on that.
In Season Six. Detective Stein will be back. (That's the reason I mention his name. I hadn't realized we ever got his name.) I'm pretty sure he interviews Joyce in the Season Two finale.
And he comes back in Season Three when Faith kills someone. He is again the detective. And we may see him more than that, I'm not sure. I am to be excited to look for Detective Stein spottings.
I really like his low-key style. He seems so reasonable and suspicious at the same time and it's always fun. I think when you see an actor like that be able to come back and reprise a role we get that sense of continuity in Sunnydale.
I don't know if he is one of the only detectives there or he's just the guy who gets the weird things.
Willow’s story arc is also foreshadowed when we have Buffy telling her use her powers for good. And she says she just wants to learn.
We will see as the series progresses that Willow's learning is such a strength for her. This desire for knowledge and to keep growing. Yet it becomes dangerous to the people around her and out of control.
If any of you watch Agents Of Shield, which Joss Whedon also produces, there are a lot of things about that theme. The responsibility of people who build and create things, who are super smart and are able to invent things. But then those things are used in a dangerous way.
While Willow doesn't invent things, there is that same idea. Intellect and power and knowledge and what responsibility comes with that.
And of course we have the foreshadowing of robots in the Buffyverse. I feel like there is always a mix among fans over whether we should have robots in Buffy. Because robots are more science-fiction and Buffy is more fantasy. And there is always, I think every time we get robots, there is a sense partly they can be so real and lifelike and so much further advanced than the technology is because, again, the answer is the Hellmouth.
I don't mind the mix of the two. I particularly like the Buffybot that we get in Season Five.
And even April, the robot we see before that. That gives us entrée into that world. It shows us that these robots can be made.
But I understand people maybe who are more purists about science fiction versus fantasy, maybe for them that mix doesn't work.
I do think the Buffybot works far better than Ted.
Ted is sort of this early version of okay, what do we do with this robot character. And later with the Buffybot we explore so many more interesting issues of identity and what aspects of Buffy go into that Buffybot.
Buffy’s Clothes Show Her Feelings
One more thing I have a note on is these overalls. We will see Buffy in his baggy overalls again at the end of Season Two.
There is that sense that this is what Buffy wears when she maybe feels not herself. Feels defeated. Feels depressed or sad and like there is nothing she can do.
I hope you will come back next Monday. I had been going to take a Midseason break. But I changed my mind in this time of so many stay-at-home orders. One, I really enjoy doing this and talking about Buffy. And, two, enough people have told me they look forward to hearing it on Mondays that I don't want to take a break now. So I may take a break later in Season Two. Twenty-two episodes is a lot to do one a week. But maybe not. Maybe I'll just power straight through.
Anyway, I hope you come back. We'll talk about Bad Eggs where, maybe not surprisingly, another attempt by Sunnydale High to teach their students something leads to disaster.
If you'd like to connect, you can tweet me @LisaMLilly #Buffy story. Or email me Lisa @ LisaLilly.com.
You can also find my fiction, including mysteries and supernatural thrillers at LisaLilly.com. And you can find articles on writing, time management and publishing at WritingAsaSecondCareer.com. Thank you so much for listening and I hope to see you next Monday.
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.