September 11, 2021

Buffy 1.4, Teacher’s Pet: Natural Selection

Posted in TV tagged at 1:03 pm by Jenn

How did Xander think this was a totally normal situation?

Summary: There’s a vampire in the Bronze! That’s not good! Fortunately, Buffy’s there. Unfortunately, the vampire overpowers her and lays her down on the pool table, ready to take a bite out of her neck. Xander comes to the rescue, and Buffy is extremely grateful. He heads to the stage to finish his guitar solo, after which he’ll kiss Buffy passionately. As he’s leaving, the vampire revives. Xander finishes him off, then takes his place on stage as a guitar master.

Yes, obviously, it’s a dream. Xander has fallen asleep during a class lecture on ants. The teacher, Dr. Gregory, asks Buffy the two ways ants communicate. She doesn’t know, so Willow acts them out behind Dr. Gregory’s back. Buffy still only gets one of them, and Dr. Gregory knows exactly what’s going on. He asks Buffy to stay after class.

Dr. Gregory knows that Buffy had “problems” at her last school – he even knows she burned down the gym. But instead of expecting her to screw up again, he thinks Buffy has the potential to accomplish a lot. She’s smart and is good at thinking on her feet. Dr. Gregory’s expectations for her are high because he knows she can do well in his class. He doesn’t want her to listen to anything negative that Mr. Flutie or any other teacher might say about her. After Buffy leaves, Dr. Gregory starts going through the slides from his lecture. Something with a huge, scaly arm sneaks up behind him and attacks him.

At the Bronze that night, Xander overhears a couple of classmates talking about scoring with chicks. One of them, Blayne, practically yells out for everyone to hear that Xander’s a virgin. At least Xander has two female friends to hang out with. Angel shows up, and Xander and Willow get to see him for the first time after hearing stories about him from Buffy. Xander notes that he’s buff and attractive. He’s obviously feeling threatened, though the way he mentions Angel’s attractiveness makes it sound more like he’s turned on.

Buffy goes over to talk to Angel, who notes that she’s cold and gives her his leather jacket. That exposes a wound on his arm from what looks like a big fork. Angel warns Buffy that “he’s coming” and Buffy needs to be on her A game. Buffy remarks that as far as Angel’s cryptic warnings go, this is at least interesting. He leaves without giving her any more information.

Buffy passes along Angel’s message to Giles the next day, though she can’t really tell him much. Giles complains that the weather in Sunnydale is the same every day. Sorry you had to leave all the rain and clouds back in England, Giles. Xander tells Buffy and Willow that Dr. Gregory has apparently gone missing. Buffy knows that can’t be good, and not just because he actually likes her.

Xander’s about to offer his sympathies when he gets distracted by a pretty woman approaching. She asks Xander for help, and his brain suddenly flies out of his head. Blayne takes over and offers to show the woman to the science classroom. “It’s funny how the Earth never opens up and swallows you when you want it to,” Xander says to an amused Buffy and Willow.

Buffy finds Dr. Gregory’s glasses on the floor as she and Willow enter his classroom. She wonders why he didn’t pick them up. They’re greeted by the woman, Ms. French, who is Dr. Gregory’s replacement. Blayne makes a gross comment because Blayne is gross. Ms. French starts teaching the class about praying mantises, which are noble creatures despite being cannibals. Also, the females are larger and more aggressive than the males. “Nothing wrong with an aggressive female,” Blayne says to Buffy, who can show him some real aggression any time she wants to.

Ms. French tells the class that the California mantis lays eggs, then finds a mate to fertilize them. Once that mate has done his job, the female covers the eggs with a protective sac and puts them away for safekeeping. A few months later, she’ll have several hundred babies. Ms. French suggests that the class make model egg sacs for the science fair. A bunch of guys in the class volunteer to help after school.

At lunch, Xander can’t stop talking about Ms. French. He thinks she’s into him. Buffy and Willow tease him about being so young and innocent that he doesn’t see that he’d just be a boy toy for an older woman. Blayne brags that he gets to have a one-on-one with Ms. French before anyone else in the class. Xander’s second, which Blayne calls natural selection. Xander says it’s rehearsal, which is pretty good as far as his comebacks go.

Buffy and Willow are enjoying themselves at Xander’s expense, but that ends abruptly when Cordelia starts screaming. She’s found Dr. Gregory in a fridge in the cafeteria kitchen. Well, not all of Dr. Gregory – his head is missing. They can only identify him by his lab coat, which has his name on it.

The Scoobies try to calm down in the library, where Giles says Dr. Gregory was well-liked, so he doesn’t know who would kill him. Buffy, who’s especially upset because Dr. Gregory was so kind to her, says that he must have been killed on campus, since his body was found in the same clothes he was wearing when she last saw him. Xander would like to know where the man’s head is.

Buffy remembers Angel’s warning about something bad coming – maybe this is it. Giles has found information on a vampire who ticked off the Master and had his hand cut off and replaced with something (possibly a big fork). Xander wonders why that vampire would go after a teacher. Giles says that a homeless man was also attacked a couple nights ago, his body shredded. That doesn’t sound like something a vampire would do. Xander says they’re on Monster Island now. Nope, just the Hellmouth.

Giles thinks Fork Guy is the most likely suspect, so Buffy asks for more information on the attack on the homeless man. Giles tells her it’s too dangerous for her to do any investigating. Buffy promises not to, but of course, she goes to the site of the attack that night. It’s a park that looks to be a popular sleeping spot for the homeless of Sunnydale. There, Buffy encounters Fork Guy, who is just as advertised – he’s a vampire with a big fork for a hand. Really, it’s a claw, but I think Fork Guy is more fun than Claw Guy.

She fights him for a minute before the police arrive. Buffy and Fork Guy run off before they can approach. Fork Guy hops a fence to leave the park and starts following a woman walking home with groceries. It’s Ms. French. She calmly turns to Fork Guy and hisses at him. He immediately runs off and goes underground. Neither of them sees Buffy watching them.

At school the next day, Buffy has to confess to Giles that she went hunting last night after saying she wouldn’t. Get used to it, Giles. She tells him she saw Fork Guy, but she also saw Ms. French scare him off. Why would a vampire with a big claw be scared of a seemingly ordinary substitute teacher? Giles agrees with Buffy that they should keep an eye on Ms. French.

As Buffy heads off to class, Mr. Flutie stops her, announcing that everyone who saw Dr. Gregory’s body has to meet with a crisis counselor. He doesn’t want the students to bottle up their feelings. Buffy should remember that Mr. Flutie is always there if she needs him. He’ll even give her a hug (but not a real hug, because that’s inappropriate). Buffy insists on going to science class, probably the first time she’s ever done that, but Mr. Flutie sends her to the counselor.

She listens in as Cordelia talks to the counselor about how seeing a dead body has traumatized her. It’s not all bad, though – she’s not eating, so she’s already lost some weight. Good job finding the silver lining, Cordy. In Ms. French’s class, everyone’s taking a pop quiz, and Ms. French seems very invested in Xander getting a good grade, because she corrects one of his answers while he’s working. She reminds him that they have their one-on-one that day. As Buffy arrives and peeks in the window, Ms. French turns her head to look at her. By which I mean she turns her head all the way around.

Buffy tells Willow about this as they head to the library. She wonders why Blayne isn’t at school, bragging about his one-on-one with Ms. French. While discussing the weirdness with Giles, Buffy realizes that they might be dealing with an insect. To discover how to handle this, Buffy will need to read up on bugs. So while she might have to fight a giant bug, she’s at least learning stuff. Hey, maybe Cordelia has the right idea and it’s easier to find the silver lining than I thought.

Xander goes to his one-on-one with Ms. French, who’s having an after-school snack. He admires the model sac she and Blayne made, which is so big that if it were real, the bugs inside it would be as big as Xander. Ms. French say she has a teacher’s conference in a little while and left the sac-making materials at home. Xander will have to meet her there that night to work on the project. Xander flashes back to his dream, playing a guitar riff. As he heads off, Ms. French finishes her snack – live crickets.

Buffy’s research has taught her that praying mantises can rotate their heads like Ms. French did. Willow notes that Ms. French is a little bigger than the average praying mantis. Buffy thinks all the pieces fit, including Ms. French’s wardrobe, which “screams predator.” Willow agrees: “It’s the shoulder pads.” Giles says Ms. French would have to be a shapeshifter, but he knew someone who might have had a theory about that sort of thing.

Willow gets an alert that Blayne is missing; he didn’t come home last night after meeting up with Ms. French. The girls remember that Xander’s supposed to be with her right now. Buffy says she’ll warn him while Willow hacks into the local coroner’s computer system to find out more about Dr. Gregory’s death. Buffy thinks the marks she saw on his body are consistent with praying mantis mandibles. Giles goes to make a call about his colleague’s theory, pretending he believes that Willow’s hacking is totally legal and that he couldn’t have stopped her from doing it.

Buffy finds Xander and tells him that his new crush is a giant bug. He thinks Buffy’s just jealous. He says there’s nothing to be done; it’s a chemical attraction. Buffy tells him that’s the pheromones. Xander doesn’t believe her, and he’s a little offended that Buffy doesn’t think someone would be interested in him, even if he’s not hot and broody and always wearing a leather jacket like Angel. Buffy asks what Angel has to do with this. Xander says the guy just bugs him. Heh, nice word choice.

Ms. French prepares for Xander’s visit, wearing a cleavage-baring dress and pouring drinks that wouldn’t be appropriate for this situation even if she weren’t a giant praying mantis. She tells him she’s nervous around him, but nowhere near as nervous as Xander is. He just babbles a bunch. Ms. French gets really close to him and asks if he’s ever been with a woman before. Xander says he’s had lots of sex, then admits that he’s lying. Ms. French knows he’s a virgin, which appears to be her preference.

Xander thinks he hears someone yelling, but Ms. French says it’s nothing. She admires his hand, which makes him remember his dream, when Buffy noted that he hurt his hand. The alcohol is getting to Xander (or whatever else might be in the drink). As he looks at Ms. French’s hands, they turn into…whatever praying mantises have instead of arms. Xander passes out and she drags him off. He wakes up in a cage in what looks like a cave.

While Giles tries to get in touch with his colleague (who probably can’t help him much, since he’s not psychologically stable), Buffy and Willow look at pictures of Dr. Gregory’s autopsy. Buffy confirms her theory that he was killed by a praying mantis. Willow worries that Xander’s going to end up headless, too. Buffy doesn’t think he’s in any immediate danger.

Wrong! Xander and Blayne are in adjoining cages, about to be made to do something that scares Blayne. He warns Xander that Ms. French is going to lay a bunch of eggs, then mate with the guys. Xander promises that they’ll be okay. He has a plan. Sort of. Maybe. Okay, they might be in trouble.

Back at the library, Giles finally gets through to his colleague, Carlyle, who it turns out was right about everything. Well, except for his theory that his mother would be reincarnated as a dog. He tells Buffy and Willow that Carlyle dealt with this giant mantis, which makes herself look like a human woman, then lures male virgins to her nest to fertilize her eggs. Buffy figures Xander’s safe, since he’s probably not a virgin. Willow tells her she’s wrong.

Carlyle told Giles that they can take care of the she-mantis by cutting it up, but Buffy will have to work quickly so Ms. French can’t cut her first. Buffy thinks everything will be fine, since Carlyle faced her and won. Yeah, he’s in a psychiatric facility now, but other than that, he’s great! Willow learns that Xander went to Ms. French’s house, so she gets to work finding the teacher’s address. Buffy tells Giles to record some bat sonar. Since bats prey on mantises, the sound of them will make Ms. French’s nervous system shut down.

Xander manages to remove a bar from his cage so he’ll have a weapon against the giant praying mantis he might have to fight. Giles gives Buffy the sonar recording and Willow provides Ms. French’s address, so the Scoobies are ready to roll. Willow notes that Ms. French’s records say she was born in 1907.

As Blayne encourages Ms. French to take Xander, not him, the Scoobies arrive at Ms. French’s house. They’re shocked to discover that Ms. French isn’t the woman who’s been posing as a teacher all this time. The she-mantis used another woman’s records to get access to the school. The real Ms. French had no idea.

The fake Ms. French chooses Xander as her mate, and he reluctantly agrees to fulfill his duties. As soon as he’s out of the cage, he hits the she-mantis with the bar from the cage. That’s not enough, and she knocks him out. Buffy takes Giles and Willow to the neighborhood where she saw Ms. French the other night, then goes into the sewer she saw Fork Guy disappear into.

The she-mantis starts laying eggs as Buffy tracks down Fork Guy. She uses his fear of the she-mantis as a kind of radar to figure out which house she’s in. Unfortunately, this means getting close to Fork Guy. Buffy uses a fence post to stake him and still has time to get into the she-mantis’ house before Xander has to do any egg fertilizing. She fights the mantis with bug spray (well, why not?) while the Scoobies and Blayne make their escape. Then she presses play on her recorder…but instead of bat sonar, she just hears some instructional tape Giles made. (The sonar is on the other side.)

Buffy fights the giant bug off until Giles is able to flip the tape and play the sonar recording. This incapacitates the she-mantis enough for Buffy to be able to hack her to pieces. Xander and Blayne are extremely grateful. They would also like everyone to keep it quiet that they’re virgins. Willow finds that virginity sweet, but she’ll keep it to herself since Xander’s holding Buffy’s machete. He uses it to chop up all the eggs.

The teens wrap up this week’s adventure with another night at the Bronze. Angel stops by again to congratulate Buffy on taking out Fork Guy. She thanks him for his help and suggests that he give her a way to get in touch with him. He just says he’ll be around. He also wants her to keep his jacket, since it looks better on her.

Dr. Gregory’s real replacement isn’t as likable as his predecessor, but at least he doesn’t appear to be any kind of insect. Dr. Gregory’s glasses are still in the classroom, and Buffy tucks them into his coat pocket, which is still hanging on the closet door. Also in the closet: praying mantis eggs, which are starting to hatch. Ahhhhhhhhhh!

Thoughts: No wonder Buffy never gets enough encouragement. The people who support her just end up dead.

Angel would really be a lot more helpful if he would just tell Buffy what’s going on and what monster she’s going to have to face. Why does he think being cryptic is the best way to go about this? I think he does it on purpose to remain mysterious.

In addition to a lax attitude toward occult books, Sunnydale High appears to have a very casual dress code, judging by Buffy’s see-through, belly-bearing shirt. I’m surprised Joyce let her leave the house in that.

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