October 23, 2021

Buffy 1.10, Nightmares: Fear Factor

Posted in TV tagged , , , , at 1:13 pm by Jenn

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Summary: Buffy creeps into the Master’s lair, where he’s ready for another face-off. She’s not. She’s so nervous that she drops her stake and doesn’t fight him when he backs her up against a wall. He puts his hand around her neck and leans in for the kill. Fortunately, it’s just a dream. Buffy’s so happy to be awake and not in danger that she almost gets excited about going to school. Joyce confirms that her father, Hank, will be visiting that weekend.

At school, Willow asks Buffy a little about her dad and his divorce from Joyce. Willow’s not familiar with parents who can’t stand each other. Hers only bicker, and sometimes they glare, but other than that, they’re fine. Buffy thinks the trouble she was getting into at the time of the divorce didn’t help anything.

In a classroom, Cordelia complains that a guy named Wendell is standing between her and the sunlight she’s using to check herself out in a mirror. Xander comes to his rescue. He asks if they had any homework, and his friends remind him that they’ve been studying active listening. As class begins, Buffy notices a young boy standing in the doorway. Suddenly, Wendell starts yelling – his textbook is full of tarantulas. “Sorry about that,” the boy in the doorway says as the whole class panics.

Underground, the Master tells Collin that fear is the most powerful force in the world, stronger than love or hate. When Collin was mortal, before he became the Anointed One, he feared monsters. The Master admits to being scared of crosses, but “fear is in the mind,” and he can control it. That means his fear can’t control him. He knows there’s some new powerful force above-ground, and change is coming – bad change.

Buffy had more nightmares the previous night, and she’s distracted when Joyce drops her off at school. She realizes she forgot her overnight bag, so she and Hank will have to go by the house before he takes her to L.A. for the weekend. Joyce is a little surprised that she’s nervous. She reminds Buffy that Hank loves her.

Willow has been obsessing about the tarantulas, since spiders freak her out. “What do they need all those legs for anyway?” she asks Buffy and Xander. “I’ll tell you: For crawling across your face in the middle of the night.” Xander doesn’t think things like spiders are that scary now that he’s faced so much supernatural stuff. Plus, if there’s something Hellmouth-y going on, Buffy will take care of it.

The Scoobies go to the library, where Giles is a little off, having gotten lost in the stacks. He also hasn’t found anything helpful on what happened with the spiders, so he suggests that the Scoobies talk to Wendell. When they do, he’s still pretty shaken. He admits that this has happened to him before. He loves spiders, but they hate him. Cordelia walks by and comments that she hopes Buffy studied for the test they have in fourth period. Buffy knew nothing about it, so she runs off to cram.

Wendell tells Xander and Willow that he used to have a huge collection of spiders. His brother didn’t tend to them properly while Wendell was away at camp, and they all died. Since then, Wendell has had a recurring nightmare about spiders crawling out of his textbook in class. He figures his spiders are mad because he didn’t take care of them. When it happened again yesterday, he thought he’d fallen asleep in class, until everyone else started screaming.

Buffy has trouble finding the class where she’s supposed to take that test she didn’t know about. Cordelia notes that she keeps cutting class, so of course she’s not prepared. Buffy struggles with the test, as well as with time management, since the whole class period flies by before she can even write her name. No one else seems to have the same problem. Also, the boy from the day before is in the doorway again.

He heads into the hallway, spotting a girl named Laura who’s sneaking into the basement to smoke. A demonic-looking guy is lurking down there and greets her with, “Lucky 19.” He beats her (ironically, right near a poster that says, “Smoking kills”). Later, Giles and Buffy go to the hospital where Laura’s been admitted. She’s too traumatized to tell them any details about what happened to her, but she tells them that her attacker said, “Lucky 19.”

Giles and Buffy talk to Laura’s doctor, who says she came out of her assault pretty well, considering. Another patient was attacked in the exact same way recently, but he’s in much worse shape, and he’s still in a coma. The doctor says someone needs to find the guy who attacked both of his patients. Buffy assures him that someone will.

Back at school, a guy who thinks a leather jacket makes you tough tells his friends he’s willing to fight a guy who wants to fight him. Willow and Xander discuss whether what happened to Wendell is connected to Laura’s attack. Way Cool Guy (as he’s officially credited – love it) gets a surprise when his mom shows up to coo over him. Who’s the tough guy now, Way Cool Guy? When Willow and Xander get to class, Xander’s confused to hear everyone laughing at him. He’s walked into the room wearing just his boxers. He thinks he’s in a dream, but when he pinches himself and doesn’t wake up, he realizes he’s not.

In the library, Giles has trouble doing any further research because he suddenly can’t read. Buffy picks up the newspaper article he was trying to read and realizes that Laura’s doctor’s other patient is the boy she keeps seeing around school. His name is Billy, and he was beaten after a baseball game last week. In other words, he’s in a coma and shouldn’t be at Sunnydale High. Giles suggests that this is a case of astral projection; Billy’s able to move around in the world even though he’s physically in another place. Buffy sees that Billy’s number is 19, as in lucky 19.

Just then, Hank arrives, hours early to pick up Buffy. He takes Buffy for a walk so he can tell her that she’s the reason he and Joyce split up. Raising her and seeing her every day was too much for him. He’s not surprised she didn’t figure it out herself; she’s pretty selfish, after all. Buffy wasn’t the child he wanted, so he just left her. Hank doesn’t appreciate her crying about this when he’s just trying to be honest. Also, he doesn’t get anything out of their weekends together, so he’s done with those. As he leaves, Billy appears again.

Xander and Willow head to the library to tell Giles about the latest weird occurrence. Willow pretends she didn’t enjoy seeing Xander in his boxers, though she acknowledges that having everyone stare at her would be awful. When Xander says it was a “total nightmare,” Willow realizes that something is going on with people’s dreams. Wendell has a recurring dream about spiders, and it happened in real life. Giles agrees – he dreamed about getting lost in the stacks, and then it happened. He tells them about Billy and how he might be influencing events in the real world while comatose.

The longer this goes on, the more Sunnydale citizens will face their worst nightmares, like Cordelia having a horrible hair day. Poor baby. Buffy has real problems to deal with! She spots Billy going into the school gym and follows him in. She tries to talk to him about his attack, but he doesn’t remember what happened after the game. He confirms that “the ugly man,” Laura’s attacker, calls him lucky 19. Before Buffy can get any more information, the ugly man attacks. Buffy’s able to fight back, unlike in her nightmare about the Master, but it’s a tough fight and she ends up running away.

The other Scoobies split up to find Buffy, though Willow doesn’t think that’s the safest option. Buffy traps the ugly man in the gym, and Billy tells her they need to hide, even though the ugly man will find them. After spotting Cordelia – now wearing clothes she would never willingly wear – getting dragged to a chess club meeting, Willow hears Buffy calling to her from the basement. She gathers her courage to go down there, where someone grabs her. Xander finds himself in an abandoned wing of the school, which has been trashed and graffitied with swastikas. He finds a trail of candy bars on the ground and follows them, because Xander is a child.

Meanwhile, Buffy gets turned around on the way to the library, and she and Billy end up by the school’s baseball field. He comments that losing a baseball game is bad. His team lost their game last week, and Billy blames himself because he missed a catch. Buffy points out that there are other players on the team, so he can’t blame the loss on one player. Billy tells her that someone else blamed him for the loss. Buffy guesses that’s the man who hurt him. They spot the ugly man and go back inside, but somehow find themselves in a cemetery instead.

Willow, now dressed in a kimono, is backstage in the auditorium, about to take the stage with an opera singer. Willow is supposedly “the world’s finest soprano.” Willow doesn’t know the words to the duet she’s supposed to sing with the other singer, and he’s not happy about it. Xander follows the candy-bar trail to his own worst nightmare, a clown from his sixth birthday party. To be fair, the clown has a knife, which is pretty scary.

In the cemetery, Billy points Buffy’s attention to an empty grave. The Master appears and taunts that he’s free because that’s what Buffy fears. People’s nightmares are coming true, and the world is now crumbling. He grabs Buffy, telling her this is real, not a dream. Then he drops her into the grave, where she falls into an open casket. The lid closes and the Master starts to bury her alive.

Xander finds Willow, who run into Giles while trying to escape the killer clown. But instead of running, Xander stops and attacks the clown. “You were a lousy clown!” he shouts. “Your balloon animals were pathetic! Anyone can make a giraffe!” The three Scoobies head outside, where things are chaotic. Giles warns that if they don’t end this nightmare stuff soon, the dream world will envelop the real world. They need to find Buffy. Hey, maybe the cemetery that’s suddenly appeared across the street will provide them with some answers!

As the three head over, Giles realizes that they’re in his nightmare. He finds Buffy’s headstone, which means he failed in his duty to train and protect the Slayer. Fortunately, she’s not dead, as she demonstrates by reaching out of her grave and pulling herself out. Unfortunately, she’s a vampire. Now the Scoobies are in one of Buffy’s nightmares. Giles tells Buffy that if they can wake Billy up, they may be able to return the world to normal. Buffy will just need to keep it together long enough to do that. She says they should hurry, since she’s getting hungry. Willow worries that they won’t be able to wake Billy. “Willow, do shut up,” Giles tells her.

At the hospital, the Scoobies encounter both the real Billy and his dream self. The ugly man is on his way, and dream Billy says he needs to stay asleep so he can hide. Buffy isn’t scared, though. She faces the ugly man, knowing he’s not the scariest enemy she’ll ever face. “There are a lot scarier things than you – and I’m one of them,” she says. They fight, and this time she’s stronger than he is. Buffy tells Billy to finish him off so he can stop hiding.

Once Billy pulls off the ugly man’s face, a bright light shines out. The world returns to normal and Billy wakes up. Moments later, his baseball coach arrives and tells the Scoobies that he comes to visit Billy every day – he just has to see his lucky 19. Buffy realizes the coach beat Billy because he blamed Billy for losing the game. But Billy no longer blames himself, and Buffy’s proud to hear him repeat what she said about one player not being responsible for a team’s loss.

The Scoobies head back to school after making sure the coach has been arrested. Hank arrives to pick up Buffy for the weekend, both of them happy to see each other. Willow asks Xander if he was still attracted to Buffy while she was a vampire. He pretends that’s a horrible question, then admits that the answer is yes.

Thoughts: Jeremy Foley, who plays Billy, looks amazingly like Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Wendell: “They’re arachnids.” Xander: “They’re from the Middle East?” Stay in school, buddy.

I wish Cordelia’s nightmares had been less shallow. I think it would be realistic for her to worry that her friends don’t really like her, or that her money and popularity won’t mean anything when she’s out of school and in the real world, or that her shallowness means she’s not prepared for life beyond high school.

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