August 13, 2022

Buffy 3.18, Earshot: Everybody Hurts

Posted in TV tagged , , , , , , at 1:09 pm by Jenn

Hey, could everyone make Buffy’s life a little easier and stop thinking for a couple of hours? Thanks

Summary: Buffy’s being chased through a park by a couple of mouthless demons. She trips and falls to the ground, but it’s just a ploy to get them within stabbing distance. One runs off but she kills the other. Some of its silver blood gets on her hand and absorbs into her skin, though she doesn’t seem to feel it.

The next day, Buffy tells Willow about the encounter. Willow doesn’t like that the demons didn’t have mouths, though Buffy notes that that means they also didn’t have teeth. Giles tells the two of them that he, Xander, and Oz have been looking into the mayor’s ascension. They’ve ruled out a couple of things but haven’t gotten any closer to figuring out what they’ll be dealing with. Buffy worries that the whole Angelus scheme was for nothing. Giles points out that it helped them confirm that they can’t trust Faith.

Buffy scratches her hand where the blood touched her as Wesley arrives late for the Scooby gathering. He gets in a good dig about Giles not having much information to share with the group. Giles is sure that Wesley, who has the Watchers’ Council’s resources, will be able to give them something they can use. Wrong! The Scoobies leave before he can even finish ruling out something they’ve already ruled out.

On the way to class, Willow asks if Buffy’s talked to Angel lately. She hasn’t, since it was too hard to see him pretending to be Angelus and hanging out with Faith. She thinks he might have been tempted to go back to his evil ways. Willow encourages her to ask him how it felt. Buffy doesn’t think he’d tell her, though.

Down the hall, a guy congratulates a jock named Hogan on a great basketball game. Xander complains that Hogan’s full of himself just because he can put a ball through a hoop. When Hogan greets Xander by name, Xander practically melts. Percy is with him, and he tells Willow he needs to reschedule their study session. He hasn’t finished the required reading yet but promises to do it at lunch. Hogan praises Willow for making Percy smarter, though I’d argue he couldn’t get much dumber.

Buffy’s disappointed that all the Scoobies are going to the next basketball game while she has to patrol. She’s also annoyed that her hand still itches. She goes back to the library to talk to Giles about it. He finds the demon she killed in a book and reads that it can infect a host. That freaks Buffy out, especially since the only clarification in the book is that the host can take on an “aspect” of the demon. She worries that she’ll get scaly like the demon.

The Scoobies go to a pep rally for the basketball team, which isn’t very exciting. A student journalist named Freddy feels the same, judging from an article he wrote. Willow thinks the paper has gotten really depressing lately. Oz hasn’t noticed since he only reads the obituaries. Buffy’s fidgeting, feeling her head for horns, and Willow tries to reassure her that she’ll be okay. Then she realizes that if the demon was male, Buffy really could have a problem.

Oz and Xander comment on the cheerleaders’ improved spelling as the pep rally continues. Xander wonders why he wasted his time on Cordelia when there are plenty of other pretty girls at school. He freaks out when he spots Wesley pausing to look at her with his “filthy, adult, Pierce Brosnan-y eyes.” “You’re a very complex man, aren’t you?” Oz comments. Buffy frets that she’ll become something different because of the demon. Willow pauses to cheer for Percy (“he’s needy”), then assures Buffy again that she’ll be fine.

That night, Buffy goes patrolling alone, checking a mirror to confirm that she still has a mouth. Angel sneaks up behind her (that whole pesky no-reflection thing), wanting to keep her company in case Faith pulls something. Buffy asks if he’s tracking her or Faith. Angel can tell that something’s wrong, but Buffy just talks about the demon and the aspect she might take on. He tells her that some demons exaggerate their powers, so it’s possible that nothing will happen.

Buffy notes that she spends all her time patrolling in the dark instead of doing normal teenager stuff, so becoming a demon wouldn’t be that big of an issue. Angel promises not to let anything happen to her if he can help it. He’ll always be with her, no matter what. He’ll love her even if she’s covered in slime. “I liked everything until that part,” she replies.

The next day, Willow, Oz, and Xander gush about the previous night’s basketball game but shut up when Buffy joins them in the student lounge. Cordelia hears them downplaying the excitement and says they’re crazy. Buffy’s night was much less interesting, since there were no demons. She saw a dog, but she’s not as excited as I would be.

Xander glances back at Cordelia and wonders if she and Wesley have kissed. Buffy hears this without him saying it out loud. “Man, you read my mind,” he says when she brings it up. Suddenly Buffy realizes the aspect of the demon she’s taken on.

As she walks through the hallway, she starts to hear everyone’s thoughts. She bumps into a teacher named Mr. Beach who thinks, If we could just get rid of all the students. A nerd can’t wait until he’s super-rich and his mean classmates are working at fast-food restaurants. A girl regrets taking French, and a guy with saggy pants worries that they’ll fall off one day. Buffy pauses as a guy checks her out, but she runs off when his thoughts go beyond PG-13.

She heads to the library to tell Giles that she can now read thoughts. As far as demon aspects go, this one isn’t too bad. Giles isn’t sure she’s not just projecting her own thoughts onto other people. She disproves that theory by telling him that when she walked in, he mentally criticized her shoes. Giles realizes that the mouthless demons must communicate through telepathy. He’s amazed that Buffy knows what he’s thinking before he says it. She tells him Snyder has “Walk Like an Egyptian” stuck in his head, and the boys of Sunnydale High are “seriously disturbed.”

Buffy’s excited for what this could mean. Giles is, too, since she could use this newfound ability to her advantage in slaying. Instead, she uses it to increase her class participation. In English, she reads the teacher’s mind to get all the answers to her questions about Othello. Willow’s surprised that Buffy both did and understood the assigned reading. Xander wonders if he was supposed to study. Also, he thinks the teacher is kind of hot.

A girl named Nancy thinks hateful thoughts toward Buffy, who just beams at her. Freddy thinks hateful thoughts toward everyone, since he’s one of those guys who thinks that participating in class is for losers. Buffy analyzes Cassio’s behavior, saying that it’s like he’s Othello’s dark half. Everyone in the room is impressed. The teacher praises her, not realizing that Buffy lifted the idea out of her head. She expands on thoughts about jealousy and suspicion, which is conveniently relevant to Buffy’s situation with Angel.

Buffy goes to his place and tries to read his thoughts, but she doesn’t get anything. He guesses what she’s doing and tells her that she can’t get into his mind. Just like he doesn’t have a reflection in a mirror, she can’t see a reflection of his thoughts. He tells her she doesn’t have to play games with him – she can just ask what he’s thinking.

Angel promises that he hated hurting Buffy. She says she would understand if he was tempted to be with Faith instead of her. He tells her that kissing Faith meant nothing. He’s done the bad-girl thing dozens of times before and he’s past it. In 243 years, Buffy is the only person he’s ever loved. Next time she wants to know how he’s feeling, she should just ask. Angel warns her to be careful with this new gift. Some things that seem great at first end up being painful. Buffy asks if he means immortality. “Exactly. I’m dying to get rid of that,” he quips. She sarcastically says that was funny. “I’m a funny guy,” he deadpans.

Buffy heads back to school for a Scooby meeting to inform everyone of her new ability. Xander freaks out about her being able to read all of his thoughts. I don’t see what this has to do with me, Cordelia thinks before saying the exact same words out loud. Willow says it’s great, but she secretly worries that Buffy won’t need her anymore. Oz gets philosophical, thinking that if Buffy can read all his thoughts, she becomes him and he ceases to exist. “Hmm,” he says.

Xander panics some more, knowing that all he ever thinks about is sex. He decides to leave before things get too disturbing. Wesley warns the others that they’re probably going to start thinking the things they least want Buffy to hear. For example, he starts thinking about Cordelia. Buffy’s amused. She assures Willow that she still needs her. She wants to share what’s going on with her. She feels like a bunch of doors are opening to her. Oz continues philosophizing: We think, therefore she is. Willow frets because now Buffy knows what Oz is thinking, while Willow never does.

Willow runs off and Oz follows her. Cordelia wonders when she can go, then asks out loud if she can. Wesley ducks his head out of the office to ask if Buffy can hear his thoughts in there or if he should leave. Buffy decides to go instead, but that means she’s bombarded by her fellow students’ thoughts in the hallway. They range from people hating their bodies to people worrying about schoolwork to people fretting that they’ll never have sex. Giles finds an account of a man who also became telepathic, but it doesn’t have a happy ending. He lives in isolation because he can’t shut off the power.

In the cafeteria, Buffy continues to hear everyone’s thoughts. Jonathan asks her a question, and when she doesn’t respond, he thinks that she doesn’t even know he’s there. Everyone wants a car or has thoughts on their classmates or is worried about tests they forgot to study for. She gets overwhelmed by all the thoughts as they grow louder and harder to separate. Then everything suddenly goes quiet. This time tomorrow, I’ll kill you all, someone thinks.

Buffy drops her tray, earning a sarcastic round of applause. She tries to read individual thoughts to figure out who was thinking about killing people, but she can’t identify the right voice. She covers her ears to try to block out all the thoughts, but that doesn’t help. She gets so overwhelmed that she passes out.

She wakes up outside with the Scoobies around her and tells them there’s a killer in the cafeteria. Xander quips that he’s been saying for years that the lunch lady is going to kill everyone with her mulligan stew. Buffy wants to go back in and find the plotter, though she doesn’t even know their gender, since the voice she heard was ambiguous. But her new gift has amplified, and now just stepping toward the school overwhelms her again.

Giles wants Buffy to go home, but before she leaves, she tells the Scoobies to make a list of everyone in the cafeteria. They promise to find the killer before lunch tomorrow. Buffy worriedly tells Giles that she can’t shut out everyone’s thoughts. It’s like strangers are walking around inside her head. She’s upset that she can’t be around people anymore. Giles promises that he and Wesley will find a way to help her. Buffy asks for reassurance that she’ll be okay even if the telepathy doesn’t go away. Giles gives her a vague reassurance, but he thinks, If it doesn’t go away, she’ll go insane.

The Scoobies make the list of people in the cafeteria and prepare to start narrowing down suspects. Xander’s disturbed by the thought of someone shooting a bunch of people. Cordelia notes that it’s become common in American schools. “It’s bordering on trendy at this point,” Oz says. Plus, as Willow points out, they’re on a Hellmouth, which just ramps up people’s desire to commit evil.

Joyce tends to Buffy like she’s sick, then makes excuses to keep her distance. Buffy’s horrified to realize that it’s because Joyce is doing what Wesley warned everyone would happen – she’s thinking something she doesn’t want Buffy to know. Specifically, she’s thinking about how she and Giles had sex (twice!) when they were under the influence of the candy. They did it on the hood of a police car at least once. Joyce flees before she does any more damage.

Willow hands out narrowed-down lists to the other Scoobies so they know who to question. Cordelia says she wants to work with Wesley. Xander tells her she has no shame. “Oh, please. Like shame is something to be proud of?” she replies. Willow sends them off to complete their tasks, asking them to write neatly and label their worksheets.

She starts with Jonathan, trying to get him to open up about his fantasies. She knows everyone thinks about being powerful and respected and getting people’s attention. Jonathan tucks that idea away for a future episode. Willow thinks he’s plotting mass murder to get attention, but he doesn’t catch on to her hints. Oz questions Hogan, pretending he’s doing a personality profile for the yearbook. He asks if Hogan ever feels like he’s created a false persona for himself and whether that puts a lot of strain on him. Hogan says it’s a moderate strain, then asks if that’s a good answer – he wants to get this right.

Cordelia goes for the straight-forward method, asking Mr. Beach if he’s planning to kill a bunch of people tomorrow. “It’s for the yearbook,” she clarifies. Xander questions three girls together, but instead of finding out whether they’re homicidal, he asks their turn-ons and what they’d do on a perfect date. Oz goes to the newspaper office to question Freddy, whose op-eds have started to indicate that he should probably be seen by a psychiatrist. He hides under a desk and Oz doesn’t see him.

That night, Buffy stands at her window to get some fresh air, but that just makes it easier for her to hear all the neighbors’ thoughts. They keep her awake as she tries to fall asleep. In the library, Giles and Wesley work on a potential cure, but it requires a heart from a demon like the one that infected Buffy, and they can’t really get that without a Slayer. Fortunately, Angel has taken it upon himself to get it for them.

Joyce sits with Buffy as she sleeps restlessly into the next morning. Willow questions Nancy, who doesn’t seem to have any paranoid thoughts. Xander talks to Larry, suspecting that he’s full of resentment because he’s in the closet. On the contrary – Larry’s fully out. He’s so out that his grandmother is trying to play matchmaker for him. He still thinks Xander’s gay, too, so he encourages him to come out via the school paper.

Oz goes back to the newspaper office to try to talk to Freddy again, but Freddy spots him outside the door and avoids him. He’s the last suspect on the Scoobies’ list, but all they have to go on are his op-eds expressing annoyance with his classmates. That’s not enough to let them say for sure that he’s plotting to kill a bunch of people.

Back at the Summerses’ house, Giles tells Joyce that Buffy can no longer differentiate the thoughts she’s hearing. Angel shows up with the demon heart (he had to cover himself with a blanket since the sun’s out – what a good boyfriend!), and he wakes Buffy and makes her drink Giles and Wesley’s concoction. At school, it’s almost lunchtime. Jonathan goes up to the clock tower and starts to assemble a rifle.

Buffy wakes up with only her own thoughts in her head. Now the Scoobies can focus solely on finding the plotter. They finally ambush Freddy, who thinks they’ve just been looking for him because he gave Dingoes Ate My Baby a bad review. (Oz actually thinks it’s pretty accurate.) That’s their last lead, but Buffy arrives and says they still have a little time to find the plotter. For starters, they’ll get Snyder to evacuate the school.

Cordelia reads a letter from someone talking about death and why they had to do something. Willow sees that it’s from Jonathan. Everyone splits up to find him as he continues assembling the gun. Xander gets distracted by Jell-o in the cafeteria. Thanks for helping, Xander. Buffy spots Jonatghan in the clock tower as he’s about to put his gun to use. She runs up the railing of a staircase and flips up into the tower. “I could’ve done that,” Nancy scoffs.

Buffy bursts into the tower and Jonathan aims the gun at her. He tells her not to try to stop him. She tries to keep him calm, but he doesn’t want her to act like they’re friends. He knows everything thinks he’s an idiot. Buffy says she doesn’t, but that’s just because she doesn’t think much about him at all. No one does – they don’t pay attention to his pain or his feelings.

She can empathize, since she understands his pain. He doubts that, but she tells him, “My life happens to, on occasion, suck beyond the telling of it.” And she’s not the only one – everyone ignores Jonathan’s pain because they have their own. All of them, even the popular and beautiful ones. Everyone in their school is going through their own issues and hiding their feelings. They look quiet, but inside, their thoughts are deafening.

Buffy notes that she could have taken Jonathan’s gun by now. He says he knows. Instead, she wants him to hand it over willingly, which he does. She unloads it as he says he just wanted it to stop. He’s confused when Buffy says she thought he was going to kill a bunch of people. That was never his plan. He was just going to kill himself.

That means the plotter is still unidentified, which is why Xander is so surprised when he sneaks into the kitchen and spots the lunch lady pouring rat poison in the food. He races back to the cafeteria and starts upending trays and tables so no one eats anything. The lunch lady chases him with a cleaver, but Buffy stops her from hurting anyone. The lunch lady says the students are vermin who eat filth. Buffy fights her and knocks her out.

The next day, life goes back to normal (or as normal as it can be on a Hellmouth). Buffy tells Willow that she and Angel talked. Then he fed her a demon’s heart, and then they talked more. “See? That’s how it should work,” Willow says. She heads off to take the student profiles to the yearbook office, since they turned out interesting.

Giles checks on Buffy, who’s enjoying not hearing other people’s thoughts anymore. She tells him that Jonathan was suspended but will probably be okay. Buffy likes that she was able to help someone “in a non-slaying capacity.” She thinks he might invite her to prom, though, and she’s not going to go along with that. Giles asks if she’s up to training, and she says they can get together after school…if he’s not too busy having sex with Joyce. Stunned, Giles walks into a tree.

Thoughts: The original airing of this episode was famously delayed because it was supposed to air right after the shootings at Columbine High. Definitely a good decision.

So no one at the school has a problem with Wesley, who’s not a student or staff member, hanging out on campus? He doesn’t even try to sneak around. He walks through the quad in the middle of the day. I wish they’d made him get a job as a cover. Make him wear a janitorial jumpsuit or a hairnet in the cafeteria.

Angel’s blank-faced “I’m a funny guy” cracks me up every time.

I love how Cordelia’s thoughts and words always match. It’s no surprise, really.

It’s telling that even though the warning is vague – “I’ll kill you all” – Xander automatically thinks that means a mass shooting. And this was only in 1999.

Giles walking into the tree is great, and even better when you know that Anthony Stewart Head improvised it.

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